The party inside Ragga nightclub in Mexico City had just gotten underway when Josh Richardson decided it was time to bring in a replacement off the bench.
Flanked by teammates Justise Winslow and Udonis Haslem, Richardson walked onto the stage at this NBA sponsored party on Dec. 8, put on a set of headphones and took over the DJ duties for the next 45 minutes.
“It was hard to work with that guy’s library,” Richardson said through a smile a day later, moments after the Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets, the only game in the month of December he failed to score in double digits. “It was all whack stuff. If I had brought my laptop I would have had that place jumping.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
For Richardson, 24, DJing has become more than just a hobby when he isn’t starting at small forward and playing All-NBA caliber defense. It’s become a serious passion and something he says he would seriously consider doing full-time once his NBA playing days are over – much like retired former Heat center Rony Seikaly is doing nowadays.
Richardson brings a music mixer with him on every Miami Heat road trip and spends hours delving deep into his favorite tunes.
“I love hearing how songs sound together, the creations I make and how people react to them,” Richardson said. “I like being able to rock a crowd. Every tiny thing you do in the DJ booth everybody is going to react. On the court, you can make a move and they won’t react, unless you do something big. It’s a lot more nervewracking going into the DJ booth. It’s only you up there.”
This summer, before the Heat signed him to a four-year, $42 million extension through the 2021-22 season, Richardson spent most of his time off hanging out with his many local DJ friends. He even forged a friendship with Kygo, a world-renowned Norweigan DJ whose manager lives next door to him. Richardson went with Kygo to Las Vegas on a private jet back in May and watched him perform up close in person.
The experiences Richardson has had learning from other DJs inspires him to dabble into creating his own mixes. One mix he says he created recently was mixing the song “Pen Game by Mac Miller over this song called Hot Hands by Darius.”
Winslow playfully calls Richardson “DJ Big Pants.” But Richardson said he doesn’t have an official DJ name yet. Winslow suggested DJ Hang Time, and Richardson kind of likes it.
“The medical stuff is cool, but I love music and I love basketball,” said Richardson, who was a kinesiology major at the University of Tennessee and an aspiring surgeon before the Heat drafted him with the 40th overall pick – 30 picks after Winslow – in the 2015 NBA Draft. “If I could have a profession doing music it would be awesome.
“I performed at Wall [Lounge inside The W South Beach hotel] once when my boy, DJ Yusef, was playing there once. I’ve never actually had a set, but I think I’ll be doing one in the near future hopefully.”
Of all the moves Pat Riley made this summer to try and shape the Heat’s future, re-signing Richardson before he could have become a restrictred free agent after this season may have been his smartest.
Although Richardson struggled offensively through the first six weeks of the regular season, he’s played elite-level defense since the beginning (holding the players he guards to 38.5 percent shooting, 6.1 percent below their average) while becoming a reliable scorer – and in many cases a go-to scorer – in the month December.
In a win over the Clippers on Dec. 16, Richardson scored a career-high 28 points – all of which were needed to lift an injury-plagued team to a win. Two nights later, with fellow starters Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson out, and Dion Waiters battling food poisoning, Richardson led a shorthanded Heat squad again with 26 points in a loss at Atlanta.
“J-Rich is playing very good basketball on both ends of the court,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “From an energy standpoint, you’re talking about a guy who’s tasked with the best perimeter player every single night and then has incredible energy on the other end to get your team organized and also make some plays for the team. And he just continues to gain confidence. We want to fuel that and see where that can go. But I like the place that he’s in right now.
“[The next step is] consistency. How often can you get to that level? So that’s what really separates great players from the average players in this league. Can you do it over and over and over? That’s the challenge for any player in this league.”
Richardson wants to prove that he can be more than just a streaky a player on the offensive end. But he’s going to have to show that over the course of the season.
The start wasn’t good. Through the Heat’s first 19 games this season, Richardson was held scoreless twice and held in the single digits 10 times, averaging 8.2 points on 35.3 percent shooting and 25.3 percent shooting from three-point range.
But since going scoreless and 0-for-5 from the field in a win at Chicago on Nov. 26, he’s scored in double digits 13 of his last 14 games and averaged 17.1 points on 53.8 percent shooting from the field, 48.5 percent shooting from three-point range – while still contributing everywhere else on the boxscore and playing shutdown defense.
“I’m a guy that can do a lot of things on the court,” Richardson said. “Whatever my team needs I can do it. If scoring is what we need, I’m gonna do that.”