For Josh Richardson, Spurs could be a one-season stopover

Josh Richardson was at the Boston Celtics’ practice facility of the afternoon on Feb. 10 when he got the news.

There was no need for him to come back for shootaround the next morning.

For Richardson, the feeling of being traded in the middle of a season was weird. The feeling of having to join a Spurs team that was already out on the road somewhere was weirder still.

The feeling of joining a Spurs team that was one game into an eight-game road trip and would not be returning to its home arena for another three weeks?

“Very weird,” Richardson said.

On March 3 – 21 days after the Spurs acquired him – Richardson set foot inside the AT&T Center as a member of the home team for the first time in a 115-112 loss to Sacramento.

Despite a relatively short turnaround to acclimate himself to a new city and surroundings, the seventh-year guard has made himself comfortable in the Spurs’ locker room, if not quite the AT&T Center court.

“I’m the big bro around here,” said Richardson, who at age 28 is the second-oldest player on the roster behind 30-year-old Doug McDermott. “This is new for me, being one of the oldest guys on the team.”

Also new for Richardson is the feeling of seeing the word “little-used” next to his name.

He had started 299 NBA games before joining the Spurs, including 263 in 268 appearances over the previous four seasons. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the final two seasons of a four-season stint with Miami, Richardson started all 154 games in which he played.

With the Spurs in the middle of a monumental rebuilding project, however, coach Gregg Popovich has awarded the majority of backcourt minutes to players under the 28-year-old threshold.

Richardson, who has appeared in five games since mid-February, has attempted to take this period of inactivity in stride.

“When you come to a team that has a rotation set already, it’s going to be a little different,” Richardson said. “I knew that coming here. You’ve got to be professional and stay ready. “

Richardson’s presence in San Antonio in itself is a product of the Spurs’ plan to build for the future. He and fellow former Bostonite Romeo Langford were part of the package the Spurs received from the Celtics in exchange for Derrick White.

Both are fine NBA players.

The real prize of the White deal, from the Spurs’ perspective, were draft picks. Boston included a first-round pick in 2022 and gave the Spurs the right to swap first-rounders in 2028 should the Celtics’ spot be more favorable than theirs that year.

As such, Richardson is poised to become the second half of the season’s Thad Young, another seasoned veteran who was more valuable to the Spurs in the locker room than on the court.

Young, incidentally, was back in town Wednesday with Toronto, where he has been a regular rotation feature since the Spurs dealt him there at last month’s trade deadline.

Like Young before him, Richardson has made an art of keeping himself prepared.

“A lot of it is mental,” Richardson said. “When you’re not playing every day, it’s easy to get down on yourself and start blaming other people and start thinking of dumb excuses.”

With guard Devin Vassell and Lonnie Walker out sick for the Spurs’ 117-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, Richardson earned his first start with San Antonio. He showed well, scoring 18 points in 30 minutes to help the Spurs’ give Popovich his NBA record-tying 1,335th regular-season victory.

The 22-year-old Langford made his Spurs debut as well, scoring seven points and drawing a charge in 16 minutes before exiting with a hamstring strain.

“They were both aggressive offensively,” Popovich said. “They feel comfortable out there.”

Richardson said the secret to Monday’s breakout was keeping his head in the game.

“It’s mentally staying engaged every day, making sure you pay attention to the little things that coach likes,” Richardson said. “Because you know he will yank you out of there if you aren’t doing things right.”

Leave a Comment