Jason Richardson Confident That Winning Will Make Free Agency Easy
Richardson may have been the leading scorer of the Phoenix Suns through the first six weeks of the season, but the reluctance of management there to even discuss a contract extension – he is scheduled to become a free agent this summer -- told him he had no future there.
He isn't too sure about his future here, either.
Richardson played his third game with the Orlando Magic Thursday night since coming in a multi-player trade, still navigating his way through a difficult mid-season transition.
"The trade didn't catch me off guard at all. I knew when they wouldn't talk about an extension that I wasn't going to be there the whole season,'' Richardson said before the Magic played the San Antonio Spurs. "They wouldn't even sit down and talk to us. I kind of figured when they were dodging calls from my agent, something was going to happen.''
Richardson, who is making $14 million this season, was pushing hard for the extension in Phoenix, preferring to avoid free agency this summer. He was riding a strong playoff performance last spring and a fast start this season, knowing his stock would never be higher.
In Orlando, he is resigned to the fact that no extension will come during the season, needing to prove he can fit on a team with a dominating center and a handful of guys who all need the ball in their hands.
It's almost certain his scoring will drop in Orlando because of the way the Magic are constructed. He averaged 19.8 points for Phoenix in the playoffs, and he was averaging 19.3 points when the trade was made.
In his first two games with the Magic, Richardson scored nine and 10 points, respectively, making a combined seven of 21 shots.
"If we're winning, I have no problem if my scoring drops to 14 points or so. I've averaged 23 points in a season (Golden State, 05-06). People know what I can do, but no one cares if you don't win,'' he said. "Everyone remembers the winners.''
The Magic wanted Richardson because of his ability to create his own scoring opportunities, something that Vince Carter had been unable to do with any consistency at this stage of his career. He also has shot at least 39 percent from 3-point range in each of his last four seasons.
"He can give us a lot at both ends of the floor. He's athletic and an extremely bright guy. And he picks things up quickly,'' said Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy. "He's one of the premier 3-point shooters in the league.''
Richardson, now in his 10th NBA season, thrived in Phoenix because of his athleticism, but he waved off the presumption that part of his success was based on the presence of point guard Steve Nash.
"Steve feeds everyone. He's one of the top three point guards who ever have played the game,'' he said. "But I've always been a player who could find my own shots. It wasn't really him. Other guys really needed that. It was great playing with him, but I'm the type who could get shots.''
Whether he will get his next contract here is anyone's guess. With a pending lockout, it's not the the most advantageous time to be a free agent.
"I'm not even thinking about that here. That was in Phoenix, but things change, and they did,'' he said. "If it would happen here, fine, but I doubt that will even be talked about. If we win, everything will take care of itself. I'd like to get one more (contract), then ride off into the sunset.''