Josh Richardson’s run as the only player to suit up and play in every game for the Miami Heat this season has come to an end.
The Heat’s starting small forward was ruled out of Wednesday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings with a sore left foot, which he hurt in Saturday’s home win against the Washington Wizards. Richardson, 24, managed to play through 16 minutes Monday night in Portland before he asked out of the lineup for good.
“I’m not really sure exactly how [the injury happened],” Richardson said Wednesday after his teammates went through morning shootaround at the Golden One Center without him. “The last few days it’s been real sore. I tried to push through it in Portland. It just didn’t feel great. I just kind of told [coach Erik Spoelstra] to sit me a little bit at the end. Going in I thought I could play through it. I did a lot of treatment to try and get it better, but once I got moving, it still kind of hurt a little bit. I thought it would loosen up. It just never loosened up.”
The injuries have piled up for the Miami Heat all season long, and the 213 games missed by 12 rotation players following Wednesday’s game is a stark reminder of how difficult a job Spoelstra has had juggling lineups and minutes while managing to keep the team among the top eight playoff seeds in the East.
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If you need a refresher, here is what Spoelstra has dealt with:
▪ Hassan Whiteside, set to miss his 22nd game Wednesday, was sidelined for 18 games with bone bruises to his left knee and now will miss his third game in a row because of a strained left hip flexor.
▪ Dwyane Wade, who joined the Heat’s injured list Monday when he was held out of action in Portland because of a mild strain of his left hamstring, was ruled out for his second consecutive game Wednesday.
▪ Before Whiteside and Wade’s latest injuries, Rodney McGruder missed the team’s first 60 games because of a stress fracture in his left leg.
▪ Before he was shipped off to Atlanta at the trade deadline for Luke Babbitt and then released by the Hawks, Okaro White went down for 44 games with a fracture in his foot.
▪ Dion Waiters played in 30 games before missing the last 37 games following season-ending ankle surgery.
▪ Justise Winslow, back and thriving now, missed 14 games in December and January because of a bruise to his left knee.
▪ Tyler Johnson, back in the starting lineup as Waiters’ primary replacement, has missed 10 games — five for a right ankle sprain, two because of a bruised left thigh, one with a left shoulder strain and two more because of a migraine headache and illness.
▪ James Johnson missed seven games — six because of right ankle bursitis and another with knee pain. He missed an eighth game because he was suspended for a skirmish in Toronto.
▪ Kelly Olynyk sat out six games in February because of a strained left shoulder.
▪ Goran Dragic missed five games — three with a bruised right knee and two more with a strained left elbow.
▪ And Wayne Ellington also missed five games — four for a bruised quad after the All-Star break and another before the All-Star break because of shoulder soreness.
Entering Wednesday, Richardson was one of only 14 players in the league to start and play in every game for his team. No Heat player has started all 82 games since Mario Chalmers last did it during the 2008-09 season. Only three other Heat players have ever done it: Brian Grant (2002-03), Glen Rice (1992-93, 1994-95) and Grant Long (1991-92).
“It sucks because I’ve been thinking about that,” Richardson said of his shot of adding his name to the list of Heat players to start all 82 games. “It is what it is. There’s more seasons to play all 82. I’m still going to try to play as many as possible.”
Starting all 82 regular-season games has become rarer by the season in the NBA. Only five players did it last season: Marcin Gortat, Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins. Six players did it in 2015-16: Al Horford, Robin Lopez, James Harden, Al-Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee and Towns. And a total of 11 did it during the 2014-15 season.
This season, Minnesota’s Taj Gibson, Towns and Wiggins, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Gortat, Charlotte’s Dwight Howard, Atlanta’s Taurean Prince, Indiana’s Thaddeus Young, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Cleveland’s LeBron James have started every game for their team.
Before Richardson missed last year’s preseason and the first four games of the regular season because of a sprained right MCL, Richardson never dealt with injuries in his playing career. He ended up missing 29 games last season because he was hurt, including six with a sprained right ankle and another 19 with a sprained left foot.
“J-Rich has been significantly more healthy than he was last year, when he missed all that time,” Spoelstra said. “But he was making these strides even before last season. Coming off of last year’s offseason, he was really improved and then at the end of the year finished at such a high note. This is the natural progression, third year, playing all these games.
“He’s gotten better from player-development and a commitment to that, but significantly better from game time and experience — and meaningful game time. Think about it, J-Rich has not played meaningless minutes with the Miami Heat. When he’s played, there’s always been a playoff context to his minutes, which is so vital to young players. He understands the significance of players and how they impact winning, because there’s a context and pressure to it and accountability to it.”