No one saw this one coming.
Richardson wasn't a member of any team after March 1, so he is eligible for the playoffs. He also spent four seasons in the Big Apple between 2005 and 2009, back when the Knicks forgot what a postseason appearance felt like.
At 33 and yet to play in the NBA this season, Richardson isn't going to be plugged into the starting lineup and given the unconditional green light. With the old and fragile Knicks, you obviously never know what could happen, but it's safe to say they're not banking on him to play a prominent role (though I'm sure they said the same of Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin).
But while Richardson isn't likely equipped to play extensive minutes, he does add some flavor to New York's postseason and, dare I say, championship push.
Which is just about all the Knicks could ask for inside of one week before the playoffs actually start.
Don't pretend you weren't left with that feeling of "What the hell?" after you saw that the Knicks had latched onto Richardson.
After watching the team part ways with the injured Kurt Thomas, seeing the Solomon Jones experiment fail miserably and scouring the web for articles that didn't contain the names "Amar'e Stoudemire," "Tyson Chandler" and "Kenyon Martin," and the phrase "royally screwed," in the same breath, the last thing we expected from the Knicks was for them to sign another wing.
Then, after a few minutes or so, a sense of relief washed over. Mike Woodson and the Knicks have clinched second place in the Eastern Conference, won the season series against the Miami Heat and managed to turn the still-tumultuous J.R. Smith into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. They're not stupid.
Signing another perimeter-oriented athlete must mean that New York's bigs are prepared to play. Which they are.
Per Al Iannazzone of Newsday, both Chandler and Martin are expected to be back in time for the playoffs, as is the seldom-used, but oft-injured Marcus Camby.
Al Iannazzone @Al_Iannazzone
The Knicks expect Chandler and Martin to be back and apparently Camby is available so they wanted to add a wing player for insurance.4/16/2013, 5:24:40 PM
Although Woodson wasn't jumping up and down with uncontrollable glee, he also had some good news on the Stoudemire front (via Iannazzone):
I'm not counting him out in terms of coming back. He will come back. We've got to extend and handle our business for him to get back in uniform -- and that's win. I don't know if it's going to be the first round or the second round. We've just got to gauge it as we go along. But I think he will come back.
That Woodson can say Amar'e will "come back" is huge, even if only because we're not usually subjected to any good news about him.
Richardson's signing adds depth to the backcourt, yes, but it's also emblematic of the Knicks' frontcourt taking shape.
The last time we were able to say this, New York was gearing up for its preseason push. So yeah, this is a big deal.
The Knicks love to shoot from the outside. To beat teams that play at a faster pace and aren't a man or six down, they also have to shoot from the outside.
Which makes Richardson the perfect addition.
To some extent, the Knicks are always going to be depleted. So long as they continue to field the oldest roster in NBA history, injuries will hit the team on a daily basis.
That increases the urgency behind jacking up shots that are worth more—three-pointers.
New York has done this all season. The Knicks are averaging 29 three-point attempts per game, which doesn't just lead the league, but it's the most treys a team has hoisted per game in NBA history.
Living and dying by the three is normally a shoddy game plan, but the Knicks aren't a normal team. Shooting an inordinate amount of deep balls suits them, and they've found success in doing so. Their 37.6 percent conversion rate is good for fourth-best in the Association.
That brings us to Richardson.
He's shooting just 39.8 percent from the field for his career, but he's hitting on 35.5 percent of his shots from downtown.
Shamelessly hoisting up deep balls isn't a foreign concept to him, either. He's averaging 4.2 three-point attempts per game for his career, and the one season he spent under Mike D'Antoni with the Phoenix Suns saw him jack up eight a night.
What's more, Richardson's accuracy from beyond the arc increases as his shot attempts go up. Every season that he has attempted at least four three-pointers per game, he has converted on at least 35 percent of them.
Again, Richardson isn't known for his accuracy overall (though he was a strong finisher at the rim once upon a time), but he excels from the outside.
The thing about three-point shooting is that it isn't impacted by age as much as, say, dribble drives and rim attacks. Players won't normally generate the same amount of lift underneath their legs as they grow older, but some added push from their arms compensates for the diminished space between their feet and the floor.
Jason Kidd has managed to hit on 35.1 percent of his shots from behind the rainbow this season at the age of 40, relying on the mechanics we just discussed. Seven years Kidd's junior, Richardson could realistically fare even better.
For a Knicks team that doesn't just pride itself on floor spacing but religiously abides by it, a wing who can knock down the three-ball is of value.
Richardson is no exception.
Some would call Richardson temperamental—when really, he's just intense. In a good way.
Though he's not often heralded for his defense, he has the lateral quickness necessary to hawk opposing shooters. And not unlike Carmelo Anthony, when he's engaged, he can be a pesky defender.
Come playoff time, being engaged won't be an issue.
Going up against the likes of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the first round is likely to interest Richardson enough to the point where he's playing with a potent competitive fire.
Pierce and Garnett would even attest to this.
Richardson can be a physical defender, and in 2010, Garnett and Pierce took exception to it.
Nothing too severe transpired (though Garnett got ejected), but here we see Richardson's hard-nosed attitude in full form as he refused to back down from Garnett when his trip to the Boston Celtics' bench goes awry.
Now, I'm not an advocate of inane on-court scuffles, but displays of toughness are something New York is very interested in. Especially in the playoffs. Why else would Woodson and the Knicks have opened their doors to Martin and Wallace? And why else would Chandler be revered for his physical play?
The playoffs are a different brand of basketball. Rivalries are created and renewed, and with so much on the line, physical play is a prerequisite.
As it just so happens, the Knicks will be meeting a resilient Celtics team in the first round and could potentially meet a still-hungry Heat faction in the Eastern Conference Finals. Toughness like Martin, Chandler, Wallace and Richardson possess is coveted in the grudge matches these bouts will (and in the Heat's case, would) undoubtedly be.
Like some of his fellow veterans, Richardson isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. And at this stage of the season, that's a treasured mindset to have both in the locker room and on the bench.
Save for an extra body that seamlessly fits into their game plan (like Richardson), it's what the Knicks' playoff push could never have too much of.
*Unless otherwise noted, all stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.
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