So you can imagine all the emotions that ran through him when he received the news that he was no longer a member of the Warriors, the only NBA franchise he's ever known, traded away to the Charlotte Bobcats on draft day Thursday.
Five days later, after the Warriors swapped him and the No. 36 overall pick for the No. 8 selection, North Carolina freshman forward Brandan Wright, the emotion is still present.
"I'm still shocked," Richardson said in a phone interview from the Bahamas, where his fiancee and two children are taking in a planned vacation. "It's hit me a couple of times. ... It was a shocker. That was home. I've been there for six years."
Richardson was angry.
So mad, he just stopped answering his phone. Not for Michael Jordan, part-owner and managing member of basketball operations for the Bobcats. Not for his mother. He said it wasn't that he got traded, but how the Warriors handled the situation.
He said he expected to be the player sent packing, what with his value on the trade market, the emergence of second-year guard Monta Ellis and the arrival of Stephen Jackson. That's why he and his agent, Dan Fegan, went to Chris Mullin, the Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations, at season's end to address the obvious and work out a situation where the Warriors and Richardson could be happy.
"Again, we looked at a lot
Ideally, Richardson said he would've liked to have his agent and Mullin work together to send Richardson to a place he'd like to play, just as Minnesota is doing for Kevin Garnett. But Mullin, Richardson said, remained steadfast in his stance that Richardson wouldn't be traded, that the Warriors were building around him.
So when Richardson got wind from his agent, who learned from a reporter, that he was Charlotte, N.C.-bound, and Mullin wouldn't answer either of their calls, Richardson said he felt betrayed.
"I understand it's a business," Richardson said. "I was kind of thrown off about the way they went about the situation. (I would've preferred) they inform me that they were trying to trade me. We kind of knew all along that I was going to be the one to get moved. But all along, it was 'Jason is the franchise, he's this, he's that. ... He's not going anywhere.'"
Richardson said he felt like he earned the opportunity to at least try to control his destiny, based on what he did for the franchise. He pointed out how he never went to the media with trade demands even though there were times he was resigned to the fact it was his time to move on. Richardson acknowledged he asked Mullin privately to trade him a few times, the latest being before the 2006-07 season, but he kept quiet after Mullin's promise of coming help.
Richardson also pointed out that he rushed back from knee surgery last season, despite a teammate telling him not to risk future injury, because he wanted to deliver on his playoff promise at the end of 2005-06.
"I know you're not supposed to do that," Richardson said, referring to an unwritten player code, "but I played hurt for a franchise. I put my career on the line for the sake of the franchise. That's just how I am. I'm loyal. I was expecting them to be loyal to me."
Richardson was excited.
He's already working out full bore, even while on vacation, eager to answer the expectations and his critics. At first, Richardson didn't like the idea of going to Charlotte. But as he thought about his new team, he couldn't help but get a little eager about a new start. Then he got another call from Jordan. This time he answered.
"I didn't know M.J. wanted me like that," Richardson. "There's no better feeling to me than winning and he's the same way. A lot of people can't take that (pressure) from him, that's why I think other players have had problems. It's going to be a challenge for me. I know I'm not close to his level, but how many people would turn down the opportunity to learn from the best that ever played?"
Richardson said he'd prefer not to go through the young-team-learning-how-to-win experience again. But, seeing clearly now, the situation with the Bobcats looked promising.
He thought about his new teammates -- most notably point guard Raymond Felton, forward Gerald Wallace (who is a free agent) and post Emeka Okafor. He thought about playing in the wide-open Eastern Conference, and how Charlotte finished just five games out of the playoffs. He remembered that former Warriors general manager Rod Higgins was the Bobcats new GM, which means he'd have someone to help him transition. Suddenly, Charlotte wasn't so bad.
Richardson said he will fly to North Carolina today. Oddly enough, he was scheduled to leave the Bahamas for Denver, his fiancee's hometown, and the layover just happened to be in Charlotte. So he's going to layover a little longer and take his physical.
"It's going to be funny being the old head of the team," he said through a laugh. "I actually had a chance to sit down and really look at what's on this team. ... All this team needs is some leadership and experience. I hope I can bring both."
Richardson was sad.
Reality started setting in that Richardson was no longer a Warrior. He wasn't going to lead the franchise to a championship. His jersey wasn't going to hang in the rafters. He wasn't going to get to spend the rest of his playing days in the Bay Area.
That fact still moves him.
"I had so much love for that team, for that city, because of the fans," he said. "From the time I was drafted until the time I got traded, they supported me. You always want that, to remain with a team your whole career. You get accustomed to the city, you buy a house there, you get a good fan base. You always envision that. But how many guys actually finish with the team they start? ... I just want to say thanks to them. Thanks for the love, and I love them." Told you he was emotional.
Contact Marcus Thompson II at email@example.com.