Denton: Redick Set to Make Highly Anticipated Return
By John Denton
April 9, 2013
ORLANDO – When Jameer Nelson won the prestigious Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment award last month, the Orlando Magic veteran point guard playfully brought up one additional `thank you’ later in the night that he forgot to include in his acceptance speech.
``And I’d like to thank J.J. (Redick) for getting traded to Milwaukee,’’ Nelson said with a hearty laugh as he posed for pictures with the Community Enrichment trophy.
Nelson’s point, of course, was that he likely would have had a hard time winning the award had Redick still been a member of the Magic. Redick, the co-winner of the 2012 community award, totally invested himself in both Orlando and the Magic for seven seasons. He donated his down time to those in need in the community, and while on the court, he worked tirelessly to make himself into a one-time cornerstone piece of the Magic franchise.
Those character traits made Redick one of the most popular players in franchise history. But when he returns to the Amway Center on Wednesday night, he will do so as a member of the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. While Dwight Howard’s return to Orlando earlier this season generated loads of boos and vitriol, Redick’s return will likely produce just the opposite feelings.
``Hopefully he gets a great standing ovation. He deserves it,’’ Nelson said of Redick, who was traded to Milwaukee on Feb. 21 in a six-player transaction. ``He gave his heart and soul and blood, sweat and tears and all of that good stuff to the organization and to the fans. He’s a guy who contributed to a lot of good years here and left a mark as a professional.’’
With Redick set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Magic (19-59) fully committed to a rebuilding plan centered around promising young pieces and available salary cap space, Orlando GM Rob Hennigan made the difficult decision to unload Redick just before the trade deadline last month. He did so even though Redick was enjoying the finest season of his career, averaging 15.1 points and 4.4 assists in 50 games with the Magic.
In return for Redick, Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon, Orlando got budding standout Tobias Harris, solid point guard Beno Udrih and rookie reserve Doron Lamb. Harris has become a go-to scorer for the Magic, leading the team in points seven times and rebounds five times. Udrih has stabilized the team at point guard while Nelson has been out with a sprained ankle, while Lamb has shown flashes of promise off the bench.
In short, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said his organization made the best out of difficult situation by securing several promising pieces, while also retaining flexibility for the future. Vaughn openly admits that Redick was one of his favorite players from this season, but he understand that the Magic likely couldn’t have met the contract demands that Redick will likely be seeking this offseason.
``Our goal is to see the impact now and in the future. I think Rob did a great job of getting quality individuals to be a part of our program,’’ Vaughn said. ``Beno has really contributed and is showing his ability to still play the game at a high level. Tobias and Doron are two young guys who are growing with this group.
``I’m a realist, and part of this business involves the trade deadline and there’s just no way around it,’’ Vaughn continued. ``As great as J.J. was for us, during games, practice and in the locker room and community, as an organization we’ve talked about putting a product on the floor that is going to be sustainable. So with sustainability comes decision-making.’’
Redick’s numbers have dipped somewhat in Milwaukee, where he has exclusively come off the bench behind guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. In 22 games, Redick has averaged 12.2 points and 2.6 assists. His playing time is down from 31.5 minutes a game in Orlando to 27.4 minutes in Milwaukee. He’s shooting 42.4 percent from the floor and 33.6 percent from 3-point range with the Bucks compared to 45 percent and 39 percent with the Magic. He did play well recently against Charlotte, pumping in 20 points as the Bucks have desperately clung to the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Redick, a first-round pick in 2006, rarely played his first two seasons in Orlando. But he still talks about how the Orlando fan base stuck with him during that difficult time, often cheering his name late in games so that he would be put into lopsided games. Redick ultimately made a sharp improvement in Year 3 in Orlando and went on to improve his scoring average over each of the next five seasons. He was a part of the 2008 team that won Orlando’s first playoff series in 12 years, he was a fixture on the 2009 team that reached the NBA Finals and a key piece on the 2010 squad that reached the Eastern Conference Finals.
``I’m grateful. If I was to look back and reflect on all of the stuff that happened to me and that I was a part of during that time in Orlando, there were just so many blessings for me,’’ Redick said last month when the Magic faced the Bucks in Milwaukee. ``Obviously, I met my wife (Chelsea) in Orlando and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But there were so many great things in Orlando that I feel fortunate to have been a part of.’’
Nelson said another reason he hopes that Magic fans embrace Redick is because he was a part of some of the franchise’s greatest moments. Nelson still raves about Redick’s work ethic and he said the shooting guard had a direct impact on Orlando’s young players this season.
``He deserves a standing ovation. It’s going to be a little weird to see him come back for a lot of people. But hopefully he enjoys it and the fans enjoy it,’’ Nelson said. ``J.J. was more vocal this year being one of the veterans. Hopefully (the Magic’s young players) learned from the time that they were here with him how to be a professional. He was the ultimate pro on and off the court and one of the guys that we all look up to.’’
Redick said a month ago that while facing the Magic for the first time was a little bit awkward, it’s something he’s gotten used to doing through the years while going against old teammates. But he admitted then that he somewhat dreaded returning to Orlando because of the confluence of emotions that will assuredly hit him hard.
``It will be a little different for sure to be a visitor in Orlando,’’ Redick predicted. ``That will be different. That one will be really strange.’’
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