By Shaun Powell, NBA.com
Posted Oct 13 2010 6:21PM
The most telltale sign of respect for J.J. Redick didn't come from his teammates or his coach or the Magic organization; they always gave him his props. Instead, it came from the outside, from the Bulls, who tendered him a three-year, $19 million offer last summer.
It wasn't LeBron money, but a nice chunk nonetheless for a restricted free agent who's never been an All-Star or even a regular starter. Basically, the league finally warmed up to Redick and learned what the Magic already knew: that Redick's best years are ahead of him, and that he can be a difference-maker for a contender. Who wouldn't like to have him come off the bench, firing up 3-pointers and spreading defenses?
It took the Magic about a half-second, roughly what it takes for Redick to get off a 3-point shot, to make up their mind about the offer. Redick was big in spurts last postseason, and may command most of the minutes at shooting guard this season. Even though the club's payroll would push toward $90 million, second only to the Lakers -- putting the Magic in luxury tax hell -- of course they matched the deal.
"They showed a lot of confidence in me," said Redick.
The commitment made by Orlando was mostly due to Redick, partly due to Vince Carter. Redick has come quite a ways from his first two unremarkable seasons, having toned his body and sharpened his overall game. But matching the contract was also smart because of Carter, who's in the final year of his deal and well into his twilight. The official transition from Carter to Redick will happen eventually; the only question is when. This season, or next?
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy won't hesitate to throw the lion's share of minutes to Redick; that happened during the Eastern Conference finals last spring, when Carter was shooting 30 percent and Redick was giving the Celtics fits off the bench. Redick was on the floor in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Boston, not Carter. And at one point in the series, Celtics coach Doc Rivers even acknowledged Boston needed to make adjustments not because of Howard or Rashard Lewis or Jameer Nelson, but because of Redick.
Again, sometimes the best sign of respect comes from the outside, not the inside.
"As a coach, you get a comfort level in a guy," Van Gundy said. "You don't worry about putting him into games because you know what he's going to give you. The shooting comes and goes, but is he going to work hard and limit his mistakes? J.J.'s confidence is way up, very high. He knows he can play. All the things that have happened to him, the contract, his performance, have added to his confidence."
Orlando made Redick the No. 11 pick in 2006 specifically for his shooting skills, figuring he would stretch the defense and unclog lanes for Dwight Howard. He finished his Duke career as the all-time leading scorer in ACC history (if not the most jeered) and seemed, if nothing else, to have a pro career as the stereotypical role-playing shooter. When even that didn't materialize at first -- Redick's playing time dropped to eight minutes a game in his second season -- he openly wondered about his future in Orlando. He welcomed a trade, figuring it would be best for himself and the Magic.
But that lasted only a fleeting second, when he received assurances from Orlando that his playing time would increase if he pulled his end of the deal. So Redick's work ethic increased once Carter arrived, and his shooting improved. Redick connected on 40 percent of his 3-pointers two playoffs ago, which carried over into last season and the playoffs. His playing time rose as well, to 22 minutes, and Van Gundy trusted Redick come playoff time. He was not only on the floor, but taking important shots in the Eastern Conference finals.
His defense, while improved and vastly better than the critics believe, still makes him a liability in certain matchup situations. But Howard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, can cover up for plenty of mistakes made by teammates.
"He'll always compete hard," said Van Gundy. "He'll always be in position; you won't see him playing or being in the wrong spot. Guys might beat him in quickness situations and with size. Real good players in 1-on-1 situations might be tough. We might need to double in the post. But he won't make many mistakes. As a coach, there's a comfort level in knowing what certain guys will do when they're on the floor. He's one of those guys."
Maybe this is the year Redick confirms he's more than just a pretty shooter, if his defense tightens.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot better," he said. "I have confidence going into this year, a lot of it."
1. HOWARD HITS HIS SHOTS
He's a career 60-percent free throw shooter and lacks a trusty 15-footer. But if he ever gets a touch, look out.
2. CARTER GOES OUT FIGHTING
This is his walk year, and Carter has a choice: Either cash in, or check out. We find out if he's money.
3. MAGIC WIN FLORIDA CHAMPIONSHIP
In order to become the best team in basketball, and they're pretty close, the Magic must become the best team in Florida.
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LAST YEAR: 59-23, 1st in Southeast
FINISH: Lost in Eastern Conference finals
2009-10 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2009-10 Stats|
VINCE CARTER, GUARD
15.5 PPG | 4.2 RPG | 2.3 APG
No longer a consistent 20-point guy, he’s in a walk year and trying to hang on to his job.
JAMEER NELSON, GUARD
19.0 PPG | 4.8 APG | 1.0 SPG
Orlando flirted with idea of trading for Chris Paul but is actually in good hands with Jameer.
RASHARD LEWIS, FORWARD
12.9 PPG | 5.6 RPG | 2.3 APG
All the Magic ask him to do is make the open 3-pointer, and he has become one-dimensional.
MICKAEL PIETRUS, FORWARD
46% 3-PT | 8.4 PPG | 1.4 RPG
Air France is a streaky 3-point shooter and capable of good perimeter defense as well.
DWIGHT HOWARD, CENTER
18.1 PPG | 11.1 RPG | 3.5 BPG
Devastating defender, low post terror and all-around franchise player is looking for title.
|Brandon Bass||6-8||250||F||Totally fell through he cracks last season, does he finally command some minutes?|
|J.J. Redick||6-4||190||G||Looking to take the next step, which for him would be the starting lineup.|
|Marcin Gortat||6-11||240||C/F||Very solid backup whose physical skills make up for low basketball IQ.|
ADDED: Daniel Orton, Stanley Robinson, Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson, Malik Allen
LOST: Matt Barnes
DWIGHT HOWARD, CENTER
Dwight Howard spent a portion of his summer working with Hakeem Olajuwon, an obvious attempt by Howard to advance his offensive skills beyond the dunking stage (and maybe win his first MVP award). It's the main part of Howard's game (besides free throw shooting) that could use an upgrade. Howard doesn't have a money move, although he does lean on a baby hook at times. Hopefully, the Dream taught Howard the finer points of the Shake. And of course, the make.
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