- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 1999

When an NBA player is doing the things that Mitch Richmond does offensively, it's easy to overlook what he's doing at the defensive end of the floor.
"I've always thought that Mitch was one of the top defensive two guards in the league," Washington Wizards coach Gar heard said. "He's solid; he's strong. Guys can't post him up, and he's quick enough to play them outside. When he was hurt, he just couldn't do the things he needed to do."
But lately Richmond has been shutting down people.
When he was hurt, it appeared as though his offensive production suffered the most, because offense had been the staple in Richmond's 11-year career. When Richmond's scoring fell to just 8.9 points and he was hitting just 31 percent of his shots, Heard benched him in favor of rookie Richard Hamilton. Richmond, who tried to play on two bad knees and a nagging hamstring injury, sat for six games. However, no one has questioned his performance since his return.
Richmond is averaging 21.8 points and shooting 51.4 percent from the floor in his last 13 games. It is no coincidence that the Wizards have won four of their last five games, dating back to an upset of NBA defending champion San Antonio. Richmond has averaged 24.4 points and has hit almost 57 percent of his shots over that span.
Heard points out that it has been Richmond's defense, which lately seems to be tested every game by one of the league's top scorers, that has helped the Wizards the most.
In Tuesday's 97-83 win over the Detroit Pistons, Richmond forced Jerry Stackhouse who is having a breakout season into six turnovers. In the second half, Stackhouse made just two of seven shots from the floor on his way to 20 points.
Richmond, who scored a season-high 33 points, finished with a game-high four steals. And twice Richmond dived after loose balls.
Heard has so much confidence in Richmond's defense that at times Tuesday he put the 6-foot-5 Richmond on 6-8 Grant Hill, one of the game's elite small forwards.
"I think he played the kind of defense that our guys can feed off of," Heard said
Said Detroit coach Alvin Gentry: "He's been playing really well, and he was a bear for them defensively. The whole team played well. It looks like Gar has them heading in the right direction. The change to Jahidi White at center seems to be paying off, and Mitch is healthy. I think he had Jerry a little bit frustrated at times."
Richmond's defense helped the Wizards hold the Pistons the league's second highest-scoring team to 21 points below their season average. The Pistons were the second consecutive opponent the Wizards had held to less than 38 percent shooting. In last weekend's 95-83 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Allan Houston hit just five of 14 shots on his way to 20 points.
Richmond also defended against Latrell Sprewell, a small forward and easily one of the best transition players in the league. In 39 minutes against the Wizards, Richmond, Juwan Howard and Tracy Murray limited Sprewell to six points in 39 minutes.
For Richmond, stopping the other team's best scorer has always been a challenge. It is something he has to be prepared for every night. He welcomes the challenge now that he's healthy.
"We've been saying all along that you really can't take a night off at the two guard in the NBA," Richmond said. "Every night you've got a tremendous player to guard. Jerry Stackhouse has been playing great. Grant Hill, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell. Those are the kind of guys that can embarrass you if you're not prepared, and no one wants to go out and get embarrassed. You have to go out there and play hard."

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