No 'Q' in Richardson's Hopes To Get Back On Court
NEW YORK -As the man welcomed his visitors, he broke out with a smile.
Perhaps, that had something to do with the familiar surroundings, and the fact that his locker hadn't been subdivided to accommodate the influx of new talent.
More than likely, the smile signified that Quentin Richardson, the Knicks' 27 year-old forward/guard, is healthy again.
"I feel good, man," he beamed. "And, I'm thankful for that."
It has been a long road back for Richardson, a 13-point-per-game scorer who missed a total of 33 games last season with back ailments. Finally, on March 30, with New York's faint playoff chances on a respirator, the 6'6" swingman underwent a microdiskectomy to eradicate the pain.
The surgery, performed by Dr. Barth Green at the UM-Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, was immediately deemed a success, and Richardson was quickly on the road to wellness. The procedure, which removes fragments from a herniated disk, may have finally eliminated his chronic back woes.
All of that is in the not-too-distant past. This is a new season. And, in many aspects, a new beginning.
"Quentin had a successful microdiskectomy, and is expected to resume a normal NBA career," said Green, who also chairs the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami and is a co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the largest spinal cord injury research center in the world.
There was never any quit in Richardson. He was determined to rejoin his teammates, and finish what they had started last season before the absurd rash of injuries took over.
"There wasn't any reason to doubt [a complete recovery], from what was explained. But, this was an area of the unknown, just because -knock on wood- I never had any surgery at all. So, I was not accustomed to how it would go."
On this night, another "baby step" for Richardson in the healing process, the opposition was Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv, who are widely considered to be New York Yankees of Israeli Basketball.
Yet, in spite of the team's aggregate totals of 47 championships, 36 National Cup wins and 5 European Cups, Richardson reminded his listeners of one distinct fact.
"We take this team very seriously. We know they have a few players who had been in the NBA, and have a lot of talent.
"At the same time," he stressed, "they are not in the NBA. We can only gauge ourselves against teams that we will compete against for a championship."
It was, really, an amazing metamorphosis. The back heals, and the swagger returns.
Maccabi, which had promoted the event and, thus, had the greater percentage of fans inside Madison Square Garden, roared to a 15-5 lead halfway through the first period.
But, true to Richardson's word, the visitors could not sustain their early margin. And, while Maccabi's 12-hour commercial flight may have induced jet lag, the Knicks' 112-85 victory hardly dampened the spirits of the enthusiastic crowd.
Isiah Thomas and his players will say that they set out to win every game. It's a lofty goal indeed, but there are greater concerns.
Renaldo Balkman's right ankle will be re-evaluated at the end of the month. Eddy Curry was resting the torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Then, there is Richardson, perhaps New York's best two-way player.
With the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05, he established a franchise-best for 3- pointers [226 in 631 attempts] in a single season; a team record of nine threes in a single game, against the New Orleans Hornets in December '04, certainly bolstered that statistic.
When the Knicks packaged Kurt Thomas and Dijon Thompson on Draft Night, 2005, to acquire Richardson and Nate Robinson, the No. 21 pick, they were not immediately aware that Richardson's back was uninsurable. Thus, to make the deal work, Phoenix agreed to part with their first-round choice.
Despite missing 55 games since then, Richardson -who will earn more than $26 million through 2010- is still a rare commodity.
"He's one of our best perimeter guys," observed David Lee, an inside threat. "Q gets it done for us, with his leadership and toughness.
"That guy, above anyone else, is someone I'd like to be on the floor with."
Beginning November 2, at Cleveland, those smiles will have even greater meaning.