Posted May 28 2010 10:19AM
BOSTON -- He's a dangerous shooter with range who has played a major role in the directional shift of this series, and normally you'd think, "Ray Allen." Instead, it's the player many thought would one day be Ray Allen.
J.J. Redick has put the Magic back in the Eastern Conference finals, one swish at a time. He is treating the Celtics as he once did the University of North Carolina, breaking open for good looks, dropping 3-pointers and changing the pace of the series. After four nondescript seasons in the NBA, the former college player of the year at Duke is looking ... familiar.
He has a sweet stroke, can shoot either from the set position or on the run, and brings a deceptively quick move to the rim. Of course, the next question is: If Redick is all that, then why hasn't he become the next Allen? Why is he just now making an imprint in the NBA and causing the other team, in this case the Celtics, some concern?
Better late than never; that's what the Magic are saying as they keep shoveling playing time in Redick's direction, at the expense of Vince Carter, and at the dismay of the Celtics.
"J.J.'s just a guy that I have great trust in because I know how hard he's going to go at it," said Stan Van Gundy. "I know he's never going to be afraid of anything."
Redick has added a new wrinkle to the series, because he's someone the Celtics didn't think about when setting up their gameplan. Same goes, to a lesser extent, for Brandon Bass, another Magic sub who's suddenly on the floor. Van Gundy has made a decision, and he's going with Redick in the important moments of this series over Carter, who's shooting only 39 percent and was seen getting a lecture from Van Gundy in Game 4. And this has the Celtics concerned, because all Redick has done is make 45 percent of his 3-point shots, score 14 and 15 points in Orlando's two wins and make Celtics sweat.
"We didn't know he was going to be Pistol Pete coming into this series," said Doc Rivers. "J.J. Redick has been very, very important. Everybody talks about Dwight Howard and Jameer [Nelson], but Redick has been their most consistent player in the series."
Nobody really saw this coming. Redick was a bit player in the first two rounds, against Charlotte and Atlanta, where he averaged 14 minutes. Now those minutes have increased to 27 against the Celtics, mainly because Carter remains in a funk and Van Gundy's patience is wearing thin. Redick has come to the rescue, just in time, especially with Rashard Lewis also in search of a jump shot.
"I'm just trying to play aggressive and take what's out there," Redick said. "I don't feel like I'm forcing stuff. If I get some daylight, I'm going to shoot."
Another reason for Redick's increased playing time is the matchups. Defensively, he's a liability, a major reason why he's been nailed to the bench during his NBA career. In the first round against the Bobcats, the Magic couldn't afford to watch Stephen Jackson post him up. Same for Joe Johnson of the Hawks. But against the Celtics, all Redick must do is chase Allen around the perimeter. Big difference.
With the dose of confidence, Redick is pushing the accelerator. The scenario seems very Duke-like, where Redick ran off screens and eventually became the ACC's all-time leading scorer (since supplanted by Tyler Hansbrough) and the most dangerous shooter in the country. The Magic drafted him 11th overall to help open the lanes for Howard, hoping Redick could turn into another Allen, or at least Steve Kerr. But his career shooting is only 42 percent. Defensively, he remained a wreck.
Timing seems on his side. He's a restricted free agent this summer and you wonder if somebody (all it takes is one team) will pull a surprise and throw money at him. That would present a problem for Orlando, already flirting with luxury tax issues and weighed down by contracts owed to Carter, Lewis, Nelson and Howard.
But that's a dilemma for later. Right now, the problems are squarely with the Celtics, who suddenly must work in some Redick strategy with their defense. And if those shots keep falling, how much will that help Howard in the post?
The best way to put Redick back on the bench is to exploit him defensively. So perhaps the key to stopping Redick is for Allen to attack the basket more (not his style) or simply break free for more open jumpers.
Either way, Redick has caught the Celtics by surprise. They probably thought he'd be a non-issue. But it's Game 6, and he's here. So, still, are the Magic.
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