Michael Redd arrived at the US Airways Center in Phoenix more than four hours before his Suns were set to face the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The reason, he said, was just to get some extra work in and to keep himself prepared for when his time would come to play more minutes.
He found out shortly before tip-off that his time was now.
Redd was in the starting lineup for the first time in over two years, and made it count by scoring a team-high 17 points in the Suns’ 95-89 victory over the NBA’s worst team.
“One of the proudest moments of my career,” Redd said afterward, when asked what this performance meant to him. “To get the win was obviously the key. But to come back, through the tears, through the hurt, through the hours of rehab, training to come back and accomplish this, is maybe the most proud moment of my career, actually.”
Redd’s last start came on Jan. 10, 2010, in the game where he suffered a devastating and career-threatening knee injury for the second time. The start on Saturday came courtesy of a thigh bruise suffered by Jared Dudley in Phoenix’s Friday night loss to the Rockets. It also came as a surprise.
“He didn’t even tell me, actually,” Redd said, when asked when he was told he’d get the start. “[Coach] told me during the pre-game scouting, ‘Mike, you have [Reggie Williams].’ I said, ‘Okaaaay.’ So everything had to switch from coming off the bench to having a starting mentality. I was honored by the fact that he would even ask me to do that, that he would have enough faith in me and trust in me.”
Things didn’t start off on the highest of notes for Redd. He missed his first four shots, but hit six of his final eight to finish the night at 50 percent shooting, which included draining four of his seven three-point attempts. He blamed adrenaline for the slow start, and credited his teammates for helping him stay positive as he was able to work through it.
“My teammates kept encouraging me,” Redd said. ” ‘Mike, you’re going to be just fine, you’ve got to run the bugs out.’ The adrenaline was going, but once I hit my first three, I kind of settled in.”
Not only did Redd score, but he did so when his team needed that boost the most. The Bobcats played well for much of the night, and built their lead to as many as 10 early in the third quarter. Redd scored five straight points to begin the Suns’ run to right the ship, and then hit a three that erased the lead completely and tied the game at 67.
Some of Redd’s looks were self-created, but on several of his attempts, he was left wide open. He admitted that he was surprised by that, and said it’s been a long, long time since he’s had that much space to operate.
“Yeah, I haven’t seen that since the Ray Allen and Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) days (playing for the Bucks), when Ray Allen was over here, Glenn was right here, and Sam Cassell was right there, so I’d be left open,” he said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time. I’m usually seeing double teams and all kinds of traps, so it was great.”
If Redd can maintain any type of consistency with his offense, it would be equally great for a Suns team that is committed to keeping Steve Nash and making a run at the playoffs. Alvin Gentry has already tinkered with the lineups and rotations plenty this season, and keeping Redd with the starters for at least another couple of games should be the logical choice. Dudley can come off the bench, and can still play the same number of minutes he’s accustomed to playing, while providing energy, cohesion, and stability for the second unit.
It’s been 10 years since Redd played in Milwaukee with the guys he mentioned. It only seems like that long since he has been completely healthy, when he was a player opposing teams needed to plan for on the offensive end of the floor. But after getting back into the starting lineup and looking good while doing so, that time might once again be upon us.