NBA: Richards dreams of making NBA
CHARLOTTE ó Jason Richards glanced around the posh NBA practice facility Tuesday and saw Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown barking out instructions and Michael Jordan watching from the sidelines.
For an instant, the former Davidson point guard let himself soak in the past four life-altering months.
“It’s been a blast,” Richards said after the pre-draft workout with the Charlotte Bobcats. “Who would have thought when I was younger that I’d be working out for an NBA team ó and in front of Michael Jordan, too?”
Nobody, before Richards played the supporting role to star Stephen Curry in one of the NCAA tournament’s most unlikely blockbuster hits. With Richards finding the sweet-shooting Curry at the right spots and making few mistakes, the unheralded Wildcats upset Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before coming within a missed 3-pointer of the Final Four.
That missed shot: Richards’ 25-footer bounced off the rim at the buzzer in the Midwest Regional final, allowing eventual national champion Kansas to hold on to a 59-57 win.
“When I go to these workouts they ask about the shot and it comes back to my head,” Richards said. “But it’s pretty much out of my head right now.”
Richards is instead focused on making an NBA roster, a goal that would have drawn chuckles when he was a skinny, lightly recruited high school player from Barrington, Ill.
Even now, after leading the nation in assists at 8.1 per game last season, the road will be difficult. Despite his 13-assist, no turnover performance against Wisconsin in the Midwest Regional semifinal in front of an impressed LeBron James, Richards probably won’t be drafted on Thursday.
At a legitimate 6-foot-2, Richards has the size of an NBA point guard. Critics say he’s not quick enough to defend speedy, athletic guards on the perimeter and doesn’t have the strength to work through screens.
“I’m not going to listen to what people say,” said Richards, who’s scheduled to work out for Cleveland on Wednesday. “I’ve been doubted so many times in my career that I just want to prove people wrong.”
That attitude, court awareness and drive caught the eye of Brown, who put five other players through Tuesday’s audition. Jordan, the team’s part-owner with the final say on draft night, also took in the workout.
“Guys like him are hard to find. He just has a great feel for the game,” Brown said. “He’s well coached. He’s a great kid. He’s a better athlete than you think. He’ll get a chance. There are a lot of guys like him in our league. I don’t see why he doesn’t have a chance.”
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