Sunday, February 5, 2012

J-Rich's Chance at Redemption

4 years $25 million was all Otis Smith had to dangle for #23 to re-sign after the Lockout was finally all said and done. It's a shocker to almost anyone, local or not, that the Michigan State product signed on the dotted line. Not only due to the lower monetary offering, but the fact that J-Rich had been rumored to be going to places such as Chicago once our playoff run ended last summer. Maybe there was more loyalty than we imagined considering how much blame Jason took for our 1st round exit despite the injuries he fought through. Or maybe the other offers just weren't as lucrative. J.J. Redick now makes more money per season than Jason Richardson does. That's definitely a change of pace to Magic fans who didn't want to see J-Rich get $8, 9, or 10 million. But at $6.25 million per season, Jason is almost a bargain (or at least fair value). He turned 31 years old in January and his perimeter-heavy game will keep him in the league for most likely the entire duration of that contract. At least, that's what we want to believe. 

Whether you were settled on Jason to start or come off the bench, no one expected Richardson to have as putrid a beginning to the 2011-2012 campaign as Richardson had. Jason looked healthy and spry in training camp and preseason, only to look like he'd never shot a jumper in his life. His points per game are at a career-low, and Redick truly deserved a larger chunk of Jason's starts than he's had up to this point. Then we found out that Jason's legs weren't as healthy as we expected. His diminished leaping ability has us Magic fans envisioning Vince Carter all over again. The bone bruises and other clashes his knees and legs have suffered over the years have caught up to the 2-time dunk champion as they did the greatest jam artist of our time. But Jason can do what Vinsanity never truly could, adapt and change his game to suit the team he plays for rather than expect the other way around. 

Jason's road to recovery will have to mirror the team's exact path. At 13-9, and the Magic catastrophically struggling to regain their winning ways, J-Rich found himself returning to the starting lineup after missing a few games here and there. A 19-point outing at home against the Cavaliers on Friday may not seem like a big deal, but it's J-Rich's second best performance of the season so far. Then the next night on Saturday in Indiana, Jason ends up posting 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in what is his most complete stat sheet of the season. It's only two games, but the 15-9 Magic will only improve on their 6th seed in the Eastern Conference if Jason can continue to show flashes of his prime. It's especially necessary when our point guard output is one of the league's worse. We know what Redick can provide, but Richardson must remain strong and aggressive for our shooting guard positions to truly appear fortified and steady on a roster full of unease over the Dwight trade rumors. This week will be quite the test with the Clippers, Heat, and Hawks all coming to town.  

Photos courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel. 

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