Josh Richardson has heard the Miami Heat’s message loud and clear: Be a more aggressive offensive player.
Richardson got an opportunity to play a leading role in Wednesday’s preseason win over the New Orleans Pelicans. With James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington still unavailable due to injury, and Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Rodney McGruder and Justise Winslow resting, Richardson played as the Heat’s primary offensive option.
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The results were impressive, as Richardson finished Wednesday’s game with 25 points on an efficient 9 of 16 shooting from the field and 4 of 7 shooting on threes in 29 minutes. The 25-year-old was aggressive from the start, scoring 16 on eight shots in the first quarter.
“To be aggressive and to be assertive, this is what the team really needs from him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has the ability to impact our offense in so many different ways. I liked the aggressiveness, particularly from the three-point line.”
Spoelstra even flew to Santa Barbara, California, to meet with Richardson this summer. Spoelstra told “me he wants me to be a leader and wants me to be aggressive” offensively, Richardson said.
There were times Richardson was that aggressive player last season, as he took 15 or more shots in 10 regular-season games. But there were also 15 games that he finished with seven or fewer shot attempts.
Richardson averaged a career-high 12.9 points on 10.9 shots per game last season.
“It’s been a big emphasis because I know that I can be that guy all the time,” said Richardson, who missed the first three preseason games with a left thigh contusion. “But I just haven’t always shown it. So, why not do it if I’m able.
“Coach has asked me to be aggressive. I do it sometimes and sometimes I don’t, and I just need to do it all the time.”
Wednesday’s decisive performance was a step in the right direction for Richardson. For Spoelstra, though, it was just a continuation of what he saw from him in training camp.
“That’s what he was doing in training camp before he had the thigh bruise,” Spoelstra said. “He was putting in those kinds of performances when no one was watching. So it was good for him to have that with the bright lights. But for me, I didn’t necessarily need to have that moment. I’ve been seeing it.”
Heat could stay with 14 players
With the Heat already over the luxury-tax line, it could end up opting to carry the NBA minimum of 14 players on its roster to start the regular season.
NBA teams have a 5 p.m. Monday deadline to cut rosters to a maximum of 15 players, which does not include those under two-way contracts. But because of the 48-hour waiver period, teams have to make these moves by 5 p.m. Saturday.
The 14 Heat players under guaranteed contracts — Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney McGruder, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow — will make the cut.
Two-way contract players Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten do not count toward the 15-man limit. The remaining four players on the Heat’s roster — Rodney Purvis, Raphiael Putney, Jarnell Stokes and Briante Weber — will be able to join the organization’s developmental-league affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, unless they are kept by Miami or another NBA team signs them.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” Spoelstra said, with the Heat playing its final preseason game Friday against the Hawks. “I know it means a lot to guys that might have an opportunity. We know who our two-way guys are. I look at it much differently than I did my first few years. If we go with 14, I’m totally fine with that.”
The Heat will be without Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery), James Johnson (sports hernia surgery), Wayne Ellington (left ankle soreness) and Justise Winslow (rest) in Friday’s preseason finale against the Hawks.