Golden State better off sans Richardson — for now 

I’m not saying that Jason Richardson’s broken right hand is the best thing that could have happened to the Warriors. But I am saying that Richardson’s injury, which will likely keep him out until after the All-Star break in mid-February, does not diminish the team’s playoff chances for 2006-07.

If the Warriors miss out on the postseason for a 13th consecutive season, they will have their built-in excuse — that Richardson, because of injury, just wasn’t the same 23.2 points per game scorer he was last season.

But that would be kind of lame.

There is a lot to like about Richardson, who suffered the break during Saturday’s game against Sacramento. He works hard, has a good attitude and is a gamer. In addition, he is team’s best finisher and one of their most reliable 3-point shooters.

But let’s face it: He’s been pretty awful this season. After offseason knee surgery, Richardson has never been completely right this season. He’s averaging less than 13 points per game and is shooting terribly, no matter where from on the court: 37.4 percent from the field; 29.7 percent from 3-point range; and 60 percent from the free-throw line.

If those numbers don’t make you cringe, these should: 29.4 percent from the field; 20.6 percent from 3-point range; and 53 percent from the line. Those were Richardson’s numbers in the seven games after he took two weeks off in mid-December to ostensibly get his knee right.

The sobering truth is that Richardson had been hurting the Warriors and holding them back. And you get the sense he knew it. Why else would he call the hand injury "a blessing in disguise?"

It’s a delicate process any time a team has to incorporate its leading scorer back into the lineup after injury. It’s virtually impossible to do that if the leading scorer comes back and he’s still not healthy. Richardson has yet to be healthy this season.

Before beating the New Orleans Hornets 97-89 Tuesday, the Warriors were 16-16 and held down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Quite frankly, the games are too important now for Richardson to be worried about his knee, and for the Warriors to be worrying about how to get him going.

This way, it’s official: Richardson can go ahead andtake six weeks to get the knee better (and allow the hand to heal), and the Warriors can get back to making do without him, which, by the way, they’ve done a pretty good job of.

Come late February, the hope is that Richardson will be ready to go and, in all likelihood, the Warriors will need him then.

Are the Warriors better without Jason Richardson? Of course not.

But are they better without the Jason Richardson we’ve seen this year? Yes.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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