Posted Apr 9 2010 10:47AM
On a team that boasts Superman, Orlando's best-conditioned athlete doesn't choose to roll shirtless at almost every camera opportunity. He's also not half-man, half-amazing. The guy that grades out better than Dwight Howard and Vince Carter and any other member of the defending Eastern Conference champs prefers a lower-key approach.
Yes, he's probably the Magic's highest-volume consumer of hair gel and handkerchiefs, but that doesn't change the facts. It's J.J. Redick. Really.
"It's an athletic game," Redick said. "Being in shape and being able to run is key for me to be on the floor and get minutes."
Four years into the league, minutes have finally become a constant for the former Duke All-American and lottery pick. Building off a solid postseason, Redick is a regular in Orlando's rotation for the first time. He's the team's fifth-leading scorer (9.6 points per game) -- highest of anyone off Orlando's bench -- and averages a tad more the 22 minutes for the soon-to-be No. 2 seed in the East.
That's a stark contrast to Redick's early days in Orlando. He played sparingly as a rookie, despite being selected 11th in the Draft, and even less his second season. Redick grew frustrated and wondered if life would be better on another team.
He wasn't sure if he's was going to stick around or be remembered more for his college career and shooting videos.
"It's not like I was lazy my first two years," Redick said. "Even my second year, I feel over the course of the season I got a lot better. I just think it was something where I said to myself, if I'm going to fail as an NBA player, if I'm going to have a rookie contract and that's it, I'm going to go out and give it my best shot."
Redick had high expectations going into his second season, but looking back admits he wasn't physically and mentally ready to play at a high level. He returned to Duke in the summer of 2008 to train for two months and spent the rest of the summer working out with Magic strength and conditioning coach Joe Rogowski.
Redick nearly played in as many games last season as his first two combined, but Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's trust in the 6-foot-4 shooting guard grew during the run to the Finals. Redick started eight playoff games, filling in at first for injured rookie Courtney Lee. Redick played a significant role in the series win over Boston, and despite playing less against Cleveland after Lee's return, Redick was back in the rotation against the Los Angeles Lakers with a title on the line.
"It gave me some momentum going into this season," Redick said.
Van Gundy agreed: "Last year, with his performance in the playoffs, he pretty well established that he was a player in this league. I don't think there's any doubt. He was very good in the biggest time of the year. There's no question in my mind that he's a player in the league.
"I think his confidence has grown, too. Even though his minutes vary, he knows he's going to be out there every night. He can have a bad night and he's still going to get to play the next night."
Van Gundy hasn't had any heart-to-heart talks with Redick about his role or responsibility on the team. Redick just knows what's expected on a squad with championship aspirations.
"Stan and I don't have conversations like that," he said. "A lot of things with Stan aren't said, but understood. You can try to read into things. The thing that I've loved about Stan playing for him these last three years is winning is his bottom line. You want to play for coaches like that. There's no favoritism, there's no preference. He wants to win and he'll put anybody in the game if he feels that's going to give him the best chance to win."
Redick's role became somewhat clearer this season when Lee was included in the trade that landed Vince Carter. Redick, Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus each log between 22-26 minutes per game backing up Carter and small forward Rashard Lewis.
On a team that loves the 3-ball, Redick is Orlando's best shooter beyond the arc at 40.4 percent. He's one of four players with at least 100 3-pointers. Redick's 107 this season have nearly doubled his total from his first three seasons combined.
"J.J. has continued to get better," Van Gundy said. "He works very hard at his game and his conditioning. He's one of the best-conditioned guys in the league. He gets everything he can out of his ability. He's always been smart and tough, now he's learned the NBA game better. He's not going to make many mistakes, he's ahead of the play. He's just a good solid player, and obviously he can put the ball in the basket."
Redick has started nine games this season, most when Carter has been out.
"He's aggressive," Carter said. "He's always been labeled as a shooter. Now he's getting to the basket, rebounding, doing a lot of things. We push each other. We're constantly talking to each other and just helping each other through our rough moments throughout the game and the season.
"He's a Duke guy, but whatever."
Carter laughed, but North Carolina guys don't have the last laugh this year. Redick likely did his share of gloating following Duke's latest national championship within the Magic locker room. It's probably more fun knowing you belong there.
"I've been on winning teams my whole life," Redick said. "I can't imagine it being any other way. I don't know how I would be if I was on a losing team. It wound be rough. Courtney Lee and I talked about that last year during the season, trading big minutes and a lot of shots and being on a losing team or playing for a team competing for a championship. There's a big difference and there's a level of satisfaction in winning, and that cures a lot of things."
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