Almost a T’wolve, Richardson reflects on deal that fell apart
MIAMI — There was a point in October when Josh Richardson was waiting for the other snowshoe to drop, anticipating what stood as the cold reality of a potential trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That would have had him in opposing colors for the Timberwolves’ Sunday visit to AmericanAirlines Arena, the final game of a three-game Miami Heat homestand.
“It was an interesting time,” Richardson said.
The negotiations with Minnesota regarding disgruntled guard Jimmy Butler were like few others during the Heat’s 31 seasons, and especially during Pat Riley’s two-plus-decades stewardship of the franchise. The talks became so public that Riley took the unprecedented step of gathering his players to tell them where the negotiations stood and that he was pulling out of further talks.
Butler eventually was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that included Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless. Along the way, Riley refuted a report that the negotiations had grown so contentious that he cursed out Timberwolves coach and personnel point man Tom Thibodeau.
All the while Richardson’s name was anywhere and everywhere when it came to the speculation, his value increasing along the way through strong preseason play and an early-season emergence.
“When your name is out there like that, I was just ready for whatever happened, really,” Richardson said as the Heat turned
their attention to moving above .500 with a victory over the Timberwolves. “I wanted to stay here. But if a move happened, then I was prepared.”
How prepared? Prepared enough to realize that after being raised in Oklahoma, playing collegiately at Tennessee, and then settling in for his first three seasons in South Florida that a wardrobe makeover might be necessary.
“Edmond gets really cold,” he said of where he was raised in Oklahoma, “but not Minnesota cold. Tennessee got cold, but not Minnesota cold.
“Yeah, I thought about all of that, what I was going to wear.”
For all the strides he had made since being selected at No. 40 in the 2015 NBA draft, Richardson mostly had remained an underthe-radar NBA presence, quiet, reserved, complementary with his play.
And then came the Timberwolves’ desperation to distance themselves from a player who a year earlier had arrived from the Chicago Bulls at the considerable price of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick that turned into Lauri Markkanen.
With Butler holding the right to become a free agent in July, the Timberwolves hands were somewhat tied, teams not on Butler’s wish list likely to be left with only a rental.
The Heat were among the few teams on that Butler wish list.
And by all accounts, Richardson was high on the Timberwolves’ wish list.
“It was a learning experience,” Richardson said of become a staple of HoopsHype and other NBA speculation mills. “I learned how to handle that and I think I grew from that.”
And, yes, Richardson said, it was gratifying, being more in demand than at perhaps any other time during his basketball career.
“Any time another team wants you is flattering,” he said, “but I wanted to be here.”
The thought was that with Butler the Heat would have the type of leading man to guide them into their next incarnation. Instead, those keys were handed to Richardson, who thrived at the start of the season, then faded when additional playmaking was put on his plate, but recently has again come around as a reliable scorer.
“I was just hooping, just like I did every night,” he said.
And yet, truth be told, there was a point, before the Butler trade with the 76ers was completed, when Richardson allowed his mind to wander, to consider the possibilities of playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and for Thibodeau, instead of in the opposite colors he will find himself Sunday.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I definitely did at some point,” Richardson admitted. “Like, ‘Where would I fit?’ and, ‘How would I play around those guys?’ But in any situation you have to be prepared for things like that. I was preparing myself, really.”
Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton tries to drive past Heat guard Josh Richardson during the first half Friday in Miami. Richardson and the Heat host the Timberwolves on Sunday.