Perhaps no Orlando Magic player has felt the repercussions of the team's recent blockbuster trades quite like swingman Quentin Richardson. Signed to a four-year contract as a free agent this summer, Richardson entered the season expecting to battle Mickael Pietrus for minutes at small forward. But Orlando's acquisitions of high-scoring wing players Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu have diminished Richardson's role, at least for now.
"I think it's probably a little up in the air," Richardson said of the effect the trades may have on his playing time, and what's asked of him, in front of his locker at Amway Center prior to Orlando's win against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. Coach Stan Van Gundy told the media he expects Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Arenas, J.J. Redick, and Turkoglu to play between 28 and 32 minutes per game, which would seem to push Quentin Richardson to the back end of the rotation. In the Magic's three games with the newcomers, Quentin Richardson has played 9, 0, and 10 minutes, respectively. Against San Antonio he did not attempt a field goal, marking the third time in his 10-year career he played so many minutes without shooting at least one basket.
Richardson stressed, however, that he understands Van Gundy, with whom he has "a great relationship," will need some time to devise new playing rotations and make the proper adjustments: "I'm patient with him as far as him figuring everything out."But it's clear Richardson very much wants to get minutes. "I'm a competitor," he said. "I want to play. I want to be out there."
Orlando made the trades to give its flagging offense a lift, and sending Pietrus to the Phoenix Suns leaves it with Quentin Richardson as its best perimeter defender. He's quite okay with that designation, saying "I don't shy from it." Though Van Gundy has yet to speak to Richardson about his role going forward, Richardson knows he must make "trying to slow down a star player" his calling card in order to earn fairly consistent playing time: "That's a way that I can easily play an effective game and have a positive effect for our team on the defensive end."
Based on Richardson's defensive skills, his lack of offensive production (less than one point every three minutes, 37.3 percent shooting) this year, and Van Gundy's numerous offensive options on the wing, Richardson may find himself shifting from being an everyday player to a situational specialist. In an Eastern Conference loaded with offensive juggernauts like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Paul Pierce, that's not such a horrible specialty to have, based on how in-demand it'll be in high-leverage situations.