For the first time in his rookie season, Malachi Richardson checked into a game in the first quarter Saturday against the Chicago Bulls.
If you were surprised, you weren’t alone. Richardson had no idea he’d be playing, either.
“No, my name was called,” said Richardson, who finished with three points and two rebounds in eight minutes. “I just had to go out and do what I could. I had fun. I think it was a great game.”
There’s no predicting how Richardson will be used, even though he would seem to be the rookie the Kings should learn the most about this season.
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Following a lopsided loss to Memphis on Dec. 31, coach Dave Joerger declared Richardson deserved to play more, in light of the team’s struggles and injuries.
But by the next game at Denver, Joerger said he didn’t want to play Richardson against experienced scorers. And Richardson did not play in the next six games and eight of the next nine.
Joerger offered no insight into Richardson’s surprise appearance against the Bulls. Richardson did not play in the second half.
“Uh, I don’t know,” was Joerger’s response when asked why Richardson played when he did.
The 6-foot-6 guard has appeared in eight games, averaging 2.6 points in 5.9 minutes. He has averaged 21 points in 11 games for Reno in the NBA Development League.
Richardson said he isn’t concerned about his playing time.
“I stay positive, keep my head down and keep working,” Richardson said. “That’s the only thing I can do. It’s up to coach Joerger to put me in; I can’t put myself in. All I can do is work and show that I belong, and that’s through practice and getting my individual work in.”
The intrigue over Richardson is natural. The Charlotte Hornets drafted him in the first round (22nd overall) and traded him to the Kings, who have had a hole at shooting guard for years, for Marco Belinelli.
The Kings used a first-round draft pick on a shooting guard in 2013 (Ben McLemore) and 2014 (Nik Stauskas). Also, they acquired Bogdan Bogdanovic last June in a trade that sent eighth overall pick Marquese Chriss (Pleasant Grove High School) to Phoenix. Bogdanovic now plays in Turkey.
The Kings have started Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple and McLemore at shooting guard this season. As the team has struggled, it seems logical Richarsdon would get a chance to play.
“Offensively Malachi is very confident, so we’re never worried about him on that end,” Temple said. “It’s just a matter of him understanding the game plan on the defensive end and executing that.”
Richardson remains confident he can help the Kings but has no plans to ask Joerger if or when he’ll get the opportunity.
“I’m not going to ask him no questions like that,” Richardson said. “If he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it. So he knows what he’s doing, so in the meantime, I’m going to keep working and do what I have to do.”