Denton: Pep Talk From Son Helps J-Rich

By John Denton
January 9, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. – Struggling with his shot and uncharacteristically lacking energy at times, Jason Richardson talked privately with Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, watched film with shooting coach Mark Price and sought out advice from teammates.

But it was a rather unusual pep talk from his 6-year-old son, Jason II, that finally helped Richardson shake out of his doldrums.

``Most of the time I just talk to myself and I’m tough on myself. But actually it was my 6-year-old, who is a basketball guru, who I talked to this time,’’ he said. ``After the first few games I called him and he said, `Dad, you are out there chilling like a popsicle.’ So even he was talking a little trash to me and he was my hardest critic. He didn’t even say, `I miss you’ or anything like that. It was, `You’ve got to make shots when you are open.’’’

Kids say the darndest things sometimes, even to high-profile NBA players. Jason II’s heart-to-heart with his dad had the desired impact at the elder Richardson went out and scored 17 points on Friday against Chicago and led the Magic on Sunday in Sacramento with 22 points. His 3-pointer late in the game broke a 87-all tie, jump-started an 8-0 and paved the way for a 104-97 Magic victory.

After playing a hectic schedule of seven games in 11 days, the Magic (6-3) enjoyed a much-needed day of rest of Monday in Portland. They will practice on Tuesday and then face the Blazers Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. Portland is 5-0 at home this season.

Richardson made nine of 16 shots and three of six 3-pointers in his breakout game against the Kings. It came on a night when the Magic badly needed offense with superstar center Dwight Howard on the bench much of the day because of foul trouble.

And his high-point scoring night also came when Richardson needed it most. After signing a four-year, $25 million contract during training camp, Richardson entered play on Sunday shooting just 38 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from 3-point range. He admitted that the pressure that he was putting on himself proved to have an adverse effect.

``It felt good seeing the ball going in because I have been pressing myself too hard,’’ Richardson admitted. ``I had been telling myself, `I’ve got to make this shot, I’ve got to do this.’ I could watch film and see that not only was I not making shots, but I wasn’t playing with energy and not running. I have to do those things to get myself going.’’

Van Gundy has been racking his brains trying to figure out ways to get his backcourt going and playing with more energy early in the season. One idea was to use more of the Magic’s depth to save the legs of his players for the second half of games. Van Gundy inserted veteran shooting guard Von Wafer on Sunday and played well by scoring 12 points. He also helped to rest point guard Jameer Nelson and Richardson, and both players had solid performances of the second half.

``Jason has been great two games in a row now and he’s making shots, which is always great for us,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Von brought us some good energy off the bench, and I knew going into the game that I was going to play him. This is our seventh game in 11 days. The other night coming out of the Chicago game it was our sixth game in nine nights and I was only playing eight guys. So we had to get another perimeter guy in and I didn’t want any of our perimeter players out there more than 15 minutes in the first half (on Sunday). It gives our guys a chance to play with the energy that they need to have.’’

Richardson worked hard over the summer and during the NBA lockout to boost his energy by doing drills in high-altitude climates near Denver. Even though his contract negotiations with the Magic spilled over into the start of training camp, Richardson hit camp in tip-top shape.

And that’s why his slow start to the season was so puzzling, causing him to seek out tips from those around him. Who knew the best advice at all would come in the form of some ``chilling like a popsicle’’ trash talk from his 6-year-old son?

``Talking to him let me know that if a 6-year-old was seeing I needed to play with more energy then I had to see it too and get going,’’ Richardson said with a chuckle. ``So I just started moving more, cutting backdoor and getting on the boards. Just talking to him helped me relax, I think.

``It was just a matter of me pressuring myself too much,’’ he continued. ``I worked so hard in the offseason that I wanted to showcase it early in the season and I think I was trying too hard and putting too much pressure on myself. I could see it in films that I needed to relax and just go play. Now, I’m doing that.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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