Stop judging J.J. Redick by his Duke days if you haven’t already

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BOSTON – J.J. Redick is excited Duke reached the Final Four.

But if Duke had been upset earlier, he wouldn’t have even watched the rest of the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m an NBA fan, man,” Redick said. “I’d rather watch the Kings and the Hornets on a Tuesday night in Sacramento than Syracuse-Georgetown.”

It’s just another way Redick is distancing himself from the college game.

After dominating at Duke and – winning national player of the year awards and setting the program’s all-time scoring record – and earning national name recognition, Redick has reinvented himself in the NBA.

He’s no longer a brash, trash-talking, head-bobbing, easily hateable, high-volume chucker. He’s a 3-and-D role player who quietly gets the job done for the Clippers.

To many observes who saw his big numbers and oversized presence at Duke, Redick entered the NBA with sky-high expectations despite being just the No. 11 pick in the 2006 draft by the Magic. When Redick barely played his first two years, many of those same people declared him a bust.

Redick was obviously frustrated, describing “a sense that regardless of how I played, there wasn’t going to be an opportunity.” He even requested a trade.

Really, Redick wanted a chance to prove he could adapt to a smaller role.

“I never expected to be LeBron James,” Redick said.

The Magic kept him, and he blossomed under Stan Van Gundy. After a half season with the Bucks, Redick landed with the Clippers. He suffered through an injury-plagued first season in Los Angeles last year. This year, he’s finally showing what he can do.

Redick is averaging 16.1 points while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from 3-point range – all career highs. In fact, his scoring average has increased each season since his second year:

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Derek Harper is the only other player in NBA history to increase his scoring average seven straight seasons.

Now, Redick is arguably better than ever.

He’s a great fit with the Clippers, getting open looks as defenses sag to defend DeAndre Jordan inside and account for Blake Griffin in the high post. Symbiotically, Redick pulls defenders to the perimeter, helping Jordan and Griffin. Chris Paul delivers the right pass to whomever has a bigger advantage.

Lately, that’s been Redick.

In his last seven games, he’s averaging 22.7 points on 58.7 percent field-goal shooting and 52.2 percent 3-point shooting. The Clippers are 7-0 in that span.

All season, Redick has been a clear positive influence. The Clippers score 112.9 points per 100 possessions (equivalent of first in the NBA) when Redick plays and 104.4 (11th) when he sits. He’s also a plus defender.

Doc Rivers has even compared Redick to Ray Allen.

“This has been a great situation for me,” said Redick, whose Clippers host the first-place Warriors tonight.

Rivers downplayed his work with Redick. Given the guard’s track record of improvement before coming to Los Angeles, Redick definitely deserves credit for his own growth.

Entering the league knowing his size and athleticism would limit him, Redick knew he’d have to get smarter. Now, he recognizes how much more cerebral he has become.

“Thirty-year-old me would destroy my 21-year-old me,” Redick said.

But not everything has changed since Duke.

Redick’s trash-talk reduction might be due more to ability than willingness.

After making his fifth 3-pointer of the game, Redick looked to the Celtics bench for former Duke teammate Shavlik Randolph, who’d been joking with Redick earlier in the game:

But Randolph had switched seats, throwing off Redick’s expectation for quick trash talk.

“I had to give it a second look,” Redick said.

Report: Raptors could get OG Anunoby back during Finals

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to the 2019 NBA Finals, and they are going to need every player on their roster if they want a chance at dethroning the Golden State Warriors.

Forward OG Anunoby has been out since early April after needing an emergency appendectomy. He has not played in the playoffs yet this season, but a new report says the Raptors may be hopeful he could return before the end of this final series.

Via Twitter:

Anunoby Is a useful second-year forward who plays hard on both ends of the floor. Toronto is going to have a hard time matching up with the Warriors defensively, whether Kevin Durant plays or not. Having Anunoby available would help Toronto be more switchable and more adept at taking on some of Golden State’s smaller lineups.

We don’t have a timetable for Anunoby’s potential return yet, but the way the Finals are spaced out (Game 1 is on Thursday, Game 2 is next Sunday) it could help get players healthy and ready.

That could be good news for Kawhi Leonard, who sat out several games this year simply to rest. Leonard has looked a little banged up through these playoffs, as has just about everyone else. The bad news for Toronto is that this time between games could also help the Warriors get Durant ready to play.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals is on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Canada.

Drake gave Nick Nurse another shoulder rub (VIDEO)

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People are already getting tired of Drake being a prominent figure in the storyline of the Toronto Raptors. They will have to just deal with it for now as Toronto is headed to the 2019 NBA Finals after beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night.

That said, Drake is actually an ambassador for the Raptors. Some folks seem to forget that.

There was a dust-up during the Eastern Conference Finals about Drake having given Raptors coach Nick Nurse a shoulder rub during Game 4. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer thought that fans shouldn’t be interacting with members of the coaching staff or players, but the Raptors didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal.

After the Raptors won on Saturday, Drake embraced Nurse yet again, playing off of the initial kerfuffle.

Via Twitter:

Get ready to see more Drake than you’ve ever wanted.

Watch Raptors fans celebrate Finals berth in streets of Toronto (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to their first NBA Finals in franchise history. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night in Game 6 to send them home and push Toronto into the final series of the year against the Golden State Warriors.

Raptors fans, who have been perennially disappointed by teams who were just good enough, naturally found themselves celebrating in the streets of Ontario. Videos of cars honking and people walking through the avenues surfaced on social media, with the whole thing looking like a big party.

Via Twitter:

The Raptors aren’t the most talented team in the Eastern Conference, but they did have the best player in the entire playoffs this season in Leonard. Coach Nick Nurse figured out a way to stop the Bucks by collapsing on Antetokounmpo, and Milwaukee’s shooters went cold at just the wrong time. The rest of the Raptors bench finally gave Leonard some support, and Toronto was able to mount a comeback in the series to push themselves into the NBA finals.

For that, both Toronto and the Raptors fans deserve to be overjoyed with what’s happening right now.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals will be on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Toronto.

Bucks fans greet team, Giannis Antetokounmpo at Milwaukee airport (VIDEO)

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The Milwaukee Bucks season is over. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his supporting cast couldn’t get things done in Game 6 on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors in Canada. Now it’s Kawhi Leonard who is heading to the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

This season was a magical one for Milwaukee, one in which they took the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference and likely have the league’s MVP in Antetokounmpo.

As you might expect, Bucks fans are happy about that fact, and showed up to the Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport to greet their returning team.

Via Twitter:

It has to be nice for athletes to get this kind of treatment. Although some may want to just go home and languish in their defeat, the unwavering support of fanatics has to take the bite out of the sting, even if just a little bit.