During the Orlando Magic's introductory press conference for free-agent signee Quentin Richardson, an Orlando-area writer asked the ten-year veteran if he saw himself more as a shooting guard or a small forward. His response, which included the phrase "the wing is the wing," has stuck with me since.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Richardson prior to Thursday evening's season-opener between the Magic and the Washington Wizards. As he laced up his white ankle braces over his inside-out NBA logo socks, we chatted about positional nomenclature and convention; "It's kinda crazy," he told me when we parted.
Before we get to the transcript, a refresher on positional shorthand: one signifies point guard, two signifies shooting guard, three signifies small forward, and four signifies power forward.
Evan Dunlap: I just wanted to know if you could a little bit more about that point, about the distinction between shooting guard and small forward and how it's not as prevalent [now].
Quentin Richardson: For me, most of my career, it's been kinda like a blur. It's like, it's not really distinct, you know what I mean? It's like, if somebody is taller, or for whatever reason, you may play different guys at the two or different guys at the three, but for me, I've always played both and guarded both positions, depending on who's starting with me.
When I first started in the league, me and Corey [Maggette], we were basically the same height, same build, I was listed at the two and he was listed at the three, but it didn't matter. It was just like, if he played against somebody... I don't even know how to compare because we'd guard different guys based on who Coach [Alvin Gentry] thought we could guard better. To me, it's always been just the wing, man. You could get cross-matched for a lot of different reasons anyway, so it doesn't mean a whole lot, to either position.
The rest of our talk follows the jump.
ED: So it's more of an issue of who you defend as opposed to what you do on offense? Is that fair?
QR: Yeah. I think in certain situations it can be both, but for me, it's definitely more about who I defend, because at the two or the three I ususally do both, basically the same things [on offense]. My game is what it is. For me, it's kinda like a hybrid position. A three or the two can be the same thing.
You look at different guys... you look at [Kevin] Durant: he's a two a lot of the time and he's 6-10, 6-11. It's like, "two guard? Should he be? So who you going to put on him: your two or your three?" If you got a 6-8 two guard, you probably put him on there. If you got a 6-6 three-man... you know what I mean?
Then you look at Rashard [Lewis]. He's 6-9, 6-10, he plays the three, but he starts at the four. So it's really about, "what's the best matchup?"
ED: So is that something you've seen, a change over your career, as the positions become less and less rigid?
QR: I would say so. Probably at the point... probably before I got in the league, when guys like T-Mac [Tracy McGrady] and you had the whole wave of guys like Darius Miles... 6-9 three-men coming in, and it was kinda like, you don't know "are they a four, but are they being played at three because they're so young and fast and athletic?" And then they develop into a three. You look at Lamar Odom and guys like that, when they came in, they were known as strictly threes. T-Mac was a two, and they were trying to play him at the one some. At that point, it kinda got wishy-washy where you had guys at 6-10, 6-9, that could play the wing, and then you got so many talented guys, and now it is what it is.
At this point, I turned my recorder off, but the conversation continued for another minute or so as we touched on other players who defy classification. I mentioned Anthony Randolph, the New York Knicks seven-footer who can function at any offensive position, as an extreme example.