OKBET ALLSPORTS : For the first time in his career, Charlotte Hornets center Nick Richards has established himself as a regular member of the team’s rotation. Richards is the only current player of Jamaican descent in the NBA.
In addition to Patrick Ewing (and his son Pat), Jerome Jordan, Samardo Samuels, Omari Johnson, Rumeal Robinson, and Wayne Sappleton, only seven other Americans can say the same.
Even though he tried his hand at every sport as a kid, Richards adored a fellow countryman more than anybody else.
Richards said, “Usain Bolt,” to Basketball News at a shootaround on Friday morning in Cleveland. I used to compete in track and field when I was younger.
A 7-foot, 245-pound monster like his idol, Richards is making the most of his chance to prove himself in the NBA.
While playing a career-high 19.0 minutes per game, Charlotte’s backup big was above the league in Offensive Rating (137.4) before to last weekend, thanks to a remarkable 68.2% True Shooting percentage.
Before Richards could comment to those figures, Hornets veteran big Mason Plumlee jokedly responded for him: I want some more minutes.
The Best Vet in the World” (laughs). If I’m being really honest, I can’t say how I feel about it. Perhaps Mase was correct. Richards replied, slouching in his chair courtside and cracking a wide smile.
“It’s nice to put in some time and work. Over the course of the last several games, [I’ve] found my groove. Not much to report, just enjoying myself. I feel like I’m making a good impression on my team. And yet, in all candor, we really ought to be able to rack up more victories. We need to take the lessons we’ve learned from our many defeats and use them to improve our team’s performance moving forward. Focusing on improving one’s ability to play for 48 minutes without making any mistakes. In the words of [Hornets head coach Steve Clifford], “we don’t want to play well for [only] 30 minutes and not 48.”
Richards has made a significant impression for the Hornets’ second team since being given the chance. His playing time has been spotty over the last two years, as he spent his rookie year developing his talents with the Greensboro Swarm of the G League and then spent the most of last season watching the players who had been in the rotation ahead of him.
Richards reflected on his time at the university, saying, “Honestly I feel that the first two years were extremely excellent, were actually more crucial years for me.” I saw and listened to the experience of the veterans who came before me. I simply observed them play and tried to imitate their style.
Richards did not dither about in accomplishing it. Starting the season with a 2-1 record, Charlotte was led by his 39 points and 21 rebounds in three games. He has recorded two consecutive double-doubles during his previous two games, totaling 24 points and 24 rebounds.
Richards is currently averaging 18.1 points and 12.0 boards per 36 minutes played.
Just his way of doing things, I feel. Maintaining a high level of consistence in this competition is challenging. With us, he has been quite reliable. “I believe as a teammate you appreciate it and the coaching staff does as well,” Plumlee told Basketball News. It’s a sign of maturity to know what to expect from him night after night, even if he sometimes has a night when his stats are over the roof, like he did earlier in the year.
Plumlee finds relief in seeing Richards step up to the plate.
As Plumlee put it, “it makes me feel wonderful,” and it “truly gives us a chance” for his squad. The interesting thing is that although our rotation remains stable, other teams’ strategies vary widely. In addition, it has been thrilling to see him compete against and beat the starting bigs.
Richards’ success may be attributed in no little part to his explosive personality. He is a force on the offensive boards, ranking second on the team in Offensive Rebound Percentage behind only Steven Adams (16.6%) in the category. The former Wildcat is also averaging 1.42 points per possession on putbacks, according InStat.
If you want to be as physically fit as Richards, you’ll have to “load a bit more,” as Plumlee put it. Faster than I am. He can leap higher and farther than most people. You should see him dunk; he’s got some serious skills.
“One thing Coach [Clifford] has been advising me is to slow down and collect my thoughts before releasing the ball. But that’s where my attention will be focused,” Richards said. “Instead of going up in a straight line, you collect yourself and attempt a slam.”
When pressed for further context, Clifford said that Charlotte wants Richards to utilize that gather more since his shot is often being blocked.
Clifford remarked that the player would be in a better position to study the defense and yet make a rapid move if he stooped a little bit. Alternatively, “Watch up and look out,” as the adage goes. If everyone is in this area, it’s OK to sometimes pass the ball out of the paint. Yes, I do believe that is a part of his maturation as well.
The squad benefits from Richards’ screening and handoff skills. His partnership with Terry Rozier has resulted in the Hornets’ best Net Rating (+20.4) of any duo (minimum 100 minutes played). Next up is a tandem with Richards and Kelly Oubre Jr. (15.2), and after that, Smith Jr. (7.2). Although they’ve only played in three games together this year, LaMelo Ball and I get along well.
We have some outstanding players who excel in the pick-and-roll. According to Richards, “that’s essentially what our offense is founded on,” and it’s all about getting his teammates open looks. The key, therefore, is to understand your place in the team and perform well within that framework.
In Clifford’s opinion, “right now he’s the 35th-best screener in the NBA,” which is a major factor in his decision, as he said on Friday. You need a solid screener, and I believe that when we get everyone back, we have three guys who have the potential to be extremely effective pick-and-roll players for us. Additionally, his screening skills are excellent and improving. That’s one area where he’s showing considerable development. His excellent screening both in front of and behind the play.
Richards is also improving as a roller. Now that he has more experience under his belt, he knows just when to make a strong dive for the bucket.
As a player, I believe he has honed down on what makes him successful and is focusing on that. Clifford explained, “He doesn’t fret about the rest of it.” He’s going to become a great roller, and he sprints, rebounds, and adds toughness to the court. I believe he realizes the significance of these actions in this league if he does them. That’s what sets him apart from everyone else.
Nick Richards seems to be finding his footing as the NBA season nears the quarter mark, and his development and potential are being seen by both Plumlee and Clifford in real time.
Plumlee said, “I believe he’s having a wonderful year.” When he enters the game, his presence is felt on both ends of the field. He’s been a tremendous asset off the bench, as he’s helped us score on offensive rebounds, helped us keep the ball out of the basket on defensive rebounds, and helped us get a lot of rebounds in the paint.
Consider Jarrett Allen; what does he do? He’s a tremendous player,” said Clifford. “He runs, he sprints to the basket, he guards the rim.” Also, I believe Nick realizes that if he works hard enough, he can achieve whatever level of success he sets for himself in those areas. The majority of males would likely fail to see the value of such abilities.
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