Q Rating: Richardson fitting in nicely with Heat

BY foxsports • November 7, 2009

By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- When scouting the Miami Heat, Denver coach George Karl noticed one glaring difference from last season.

"Scary," he said.

Quentin Richardson will take that as a compliment.

Perhaps the biggest surprise within Miami's eye-catching 5-1 start, Richardson is averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting nearly 50 percent. But most importantly, Miami's new starter at small forward has found a way to seamlessly join a rotation composed of players who spent a year together before he arrived.

Count Karl among the impressed.

"He has the defensive maturity and rebounding maturity to him that I don't remember in his past years," Karl said. "He just seems like he's kind of recommitted, regrouped."

Some of the changes are obvious: He lost 30 pounds entering the season, getting down to 224, the lightest he's been since his teens.

Some are more subtle: He's regularly taking charges, matches up on opponents' best scorers, and is simply enjoying the game again.

"Feels good when people take notice and things like that," Richardson said. "But it's not really about me, man. If we were 1-5, nobody would be saying anything about me. It's about the team and how well we're playing together."

It's been a long time since he could say anything like that.

Richardson played in 241 games over the previous four seasons with the New York Knicks, winning a mere 81 of those contests. Throughout that tenure, he was involved in a run of five-wins-in-six-games only twice.

So starting this season 5-1, it's been a long time coming for the former 1st-round pick.

"We're definitely excited and we definitely see we can be pretty good," Richardson said. "But it's all about continuously working and trying to get better. ... It just feels good to know that we're going out there and getting some tough wins."

He's one of the reasons why, for certain. Which makes this offseason seem even more strange.

The Knicks traded him to Memphis for Darko Milicic on June 25. Less than four weeks later, Memphis traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers for Zach Randolph. Three days after that, the Clippers shipped him to Minnesota for Craig Smith, Mark Madsen and Sebastian Telfair.

And while working out with his longtime friend Dwyane Wade in their hometown of Chicago, the phone rang again about a month later. The Timberwolves traded him yet again, sending him to Miami for Mark Blount.

Wade was overjoyed.

"Very, very, very important," Wade said. "Q has shotmaking ability. You just know that every night, he's going to bring us toughness and he's going to guard the other team's best player. And there's going to be nights where guys are going to score some points, but they're not going to be easy points. He wants that challenge and it's great for this team."

Still, Q was the Question Mark entering camp. Could the new guy pick up Miami's sophisticated defensive schemes, especially after four years with the Knicks and their very different style on that end of the court?

The Heat didn't wait long before getting that answer.

"We have a defensive drill and he took four charges," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "As a staff afterward, we were stunned. We didn't remember any of our players ever getting four charges in the same drill before."

That set the tone for Miami's biggest move: Putting Richardson in the starting lineup at small forward, shifting Michael Beasley to the first-string spot at power forward, and asking longtime starter Udonis Haslem to come off the bench.

It's early, but it also seems to be working. Miami is tied with Orlando for the Southeast Division lead, and Richardson, Beasley and Haslem are all doing exactly what the Heat hoped.

"Like you said, it's early, but you've got to start," Richardson said. "It's good to be there early. Now we've got to sustain it and maintain it throughout the whole way."