Nick Richards cannot be this bad any longer.
For the last month, fans questioned why the seven-footer remained in the starting lineup. Richards responded to the complaints by validating them.
In the last four games, Richards has only attempted three shots. He made one today to increase his four-game point total to three. In that time has hauled in ten rebounds, a contribution feels insignificant.
Calipari has kept Richards in the starting lineup because he does not want to “lose” him for the year. Today is the reason why Calipari must continue to play Richards.
In the previous three games, Calipari tightened the leash and played Richards fewer than ten minutes. As usual, the freshman started today at Florida, but unusually, Richards was forced to stay in the game. The forwards who emerged as Kentucky’s primary frontcourt options, Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Washington, were forced to the sideline with foul trouble and finished the game with four fouls. Cal briefly turned to Sacha Killeya-Jones, but Richards was really the only option.
Providing relief for 19 minutes, the best thing Richards did was aggravate Kentucky fans.
Vanderbilt is proof you don’t have to score to be effective, but you can’t be a liability on the court. Richards dropped passes. Rebounds slipped through his fingertips. Opponents beat him backdoor. To make matters more frustrating, the 75 percent free throw shooter missed his only two free throw attempts.
In most cases, a coach would just bench a guy who is not producing, but Calipari has backed himself into a corner. Unwilling to play Killeya-Jones, if UK is faced with frontcourt foul trouble there are only two options, play small-ball or play Richards.
There’s only one solution: Richards must be better. He does not have to be great. He does not even have to be good. He just can’t continue to play this poorly.