Showing that it is still business as usual at Amway Center despite rumors and turmoil swirling around Dwight Howard, the Magic re-signed Jason Richardson to a four-year deal worth a reported $25 million. Virtually it is the same deal Orlando will give to Glen Davis. More importantly (or interestingly or futilely), this signing is not the action of a team that thinks it trading Dwight Howard any time soon.
Richardson averaged 13.9 points per game in 55 games, shooting 43.3 percent from the floor and adding a 52.8 percent effective field goal percentage. Despite those struggles and playing with an MVP-caliber Dwight Howard anchoring the paint, Richardson never could deliver as Magic fans desired.
The image of Richardson is probably of the high-flying slasher and shooter for the Warriors. A guy who was a decent scorer constantly playing a role he was not fit for -- that of the primary scorer. Orlando would not be asking him to do that by any stretch. But the team still expected him to do more.
In the final year of a contract that netted him $14.4 million, Richardson was supposed to add the scoring punch and offensive punch off the dribble to balance the massive amount of shooters the team had surrounding Howard. Except Richardson was not particularly strong off the dribble or in the pick and roll. He was not a great driver. Really, he was not a fantastic shooter, making on 38.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in a Magic uniform. Richardson, while still athletic for a 30/31-year-old shooting guard, was not quick laterally as a defender.
Oftentimes Richardson would be skating along the entire game until the final two minutes when a quick flurry of points would resurrect the Magic and some excitement.
So why bring him back? Why would Orlando bring back a player that disappointed so thoroughly last year? He certainly is not the missing piece that Orlando needs to acquire to keep Dwight Howard. Certainly not the major move Dwight Howard wants to see to make Orlando not only the place he wants to be, but the place he wants to go.
This surely is not what he had in mind.
It should be noted that the Magic got Richardson for a pretty solid bargain. At about $6 million per year for the next four years is a bargain from a money standpoint. Richardson is making slightly more than a rookie contract for a guy that is a veteran who can still put up a decent amount of point. Otis Smith said throughout the season that he believed Richardson would benefit from a full year in Orlando. Now we get four more.
In one sense, this is a fantastic deal. Richardson is certainly worth more than he is making right now. This is slightly above the mid-level for a player that is a pretty solid starter in the NBA. He is no longer the borderline All Star he once was, but he can still be a player that can contribute. And that can be either as a starter or off the bench.
The length is a negative for sure though. Richardson will be 35 when the contract ends and he will be coming off the bench by then.
The length is also a question when you consider the Dwight Howard situation. Richardson is not the answer at shooting guard and not the answer to make this team significantly better. We know the team we had was not a championship-caliber team. So far this offseason, Orlando has dropped Gilbert Arenas and took a step to the side in swapping Brandon Bass for Glen Davis. So signing Jason Richardson back makes complete sense, right?
As it stands, Orlando has tied itself up to some relatively lengthy contracts. Richardson and Davis will be under contract through 2015. Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon's final year in 2014 is non-guaranteed. Quentin Richardson also has a player option for 2014. That is already five players and potentially $32.7 million wrapped up in 2014.
The salary cap will surely grow from $58 million, but how does this help the Magic rebuild after Dwight gets traded? It is more long contracts (although independently they may not be bad).
If you are still holding onto believing Dwight Howard will remain in Orlando (trust me, I want to be in that boat too), signing Richardson could signal that Orlando is getting ready to build a package that sends J.J. Redick out. Redick is one of Orlando's more valuable assets. And if Justin Harper turns out to be a solid player, it could make him or Ryan Anderson moveable as well. Richardson cannot be traded for 90 days after signing the contract (or until March 1).
Theoretically, this could be a move made because Otis has a deal centered around some Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson package to bring in a player that would hopefully keep Dwight Howard satisfied with the job Orlando is doing.
The Magic said Saturday that the two parties had some type of mutual agreement that they would work hard for each other -- Magic would work hard to find Dwight a landing spot and work hard to improve the roster. It is going to be extremely difficult to do both. And it feels like this Jason Richardson signing is Orlando trying to have its feet in both pools and not making a firm decision concerning Dwight Howard.
Really, it is going to be difficult to make any smart decisions until the management makes a decision regarding Howard. It is clear by the moves the team made this weekend it has not done that.
So, welcome back Jason Richardson.