Al­most a T’wolve, Richard­son re­flects on deal that fell apart

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ira Win­der­man

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.”

LYNNE SLADKY/AP

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.

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