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

7 Comments

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:

image

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.

Watch Shai Gilgeous-Alexander go off for 42, Thunder blow out Rockets

0 Comments

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder took what coach Mark Daigneault called a “bloodthirsty mentality” into Saturday’s rematch with the Houston Rockets.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points to help the Thunder blow out Houston 153-121.

They were disappointed in losing at Houston on Wednesday and responded by setting an Oklahoma City record for points in a game, surpassing the 150 they scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

“Just (wanted to) be the aggressors,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Play our style, our brand of basketball. I think we got away from that a little bit in Houston, and we just wanted to get back on track.”

Daigneault was most pleased that the approach was player-led.

“It wasn’t like I was giving motivational speeches,” he said. “But, you know, as a team, they kind of banded together and decided that they were going to come out and play the way they did. And they were impressive because of it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander set the tone by scoring 20 points in the first quarter.

“I thought tonight was, like, a pretty big leadership statement game for him,” Daigneault said. “I think when you need a response like we needed tonight coming out of the other night, you rely on your guys that are most experienced, who play the most minutes.”

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 from the field in the first matchup, but bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals on Saturday, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists for the Thunder, despite not playing in the fourth quarter because the Thunder led by 42 points at the end of the third.

Mike Muscala scored a season-high 19 points and Josh Giddey added 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City.

“We’re a team that’s growing in confidence, and I think our habits are growing,” Daigneault said. “And I think a lot of things are moving in the right direction.”

Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points and Tari Eason added 18 for the Rockets.

The Rockets were playing without Eric Gordon (sore right knee) and Jae'Sean Tate (right ankle injury).

Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t want to hear it.

“You’ve got to step up in these situations, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We succumbed to back-to-back, three-in-four, no Eric, no Tate, all that stuff. … We succumbed to it. That’s not – we’re talking about winning habits. That’s not one.”

Oklahoma City led 79-53 at the break after shooting 55% from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points in the first two quarters, a career high for him in a first half.

The Thunder continued to roll in the third quarter, making 16 of 26 field goals in the period to go up 123-81 heading into the fourth.

Oklahoma City set the Thunder single-game scoring record on a 3-pointer by Darius Bazley that banked in during the final minute.

Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury, MRI Sunday

Golden State Warriors v Denver Nuggets
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
0 Comments

Warriors fans everywhere — not to mention coaching staff and players — are holding their breath.

Stephen Curry left the game against the Mavericks in the third quarter when he was defending Danny Green and the two collided, knocking knees. On the replay, Curry’s knee seems to bend slightly at an awkward angle.

Curry went to the Warriors’ bench, was looked at by the team medical staff, and soon went back to the locker room and did not return. X-rays taken of his knee were negative, but the MRI expected Sunday will be more telling.

Of extra concern is that this is the second injury to that leg in as many games, Curry was able to play through the first one.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game. Of larger concern, the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when Curry is on the court and 5.4 when he is off. At 27-26 the Warriors sit seventh in the West.

The defending champs have not lived up to that billing this season, never putting together a consistent run of high-level basketball to show us what we believe they are capable of. If Curry misses significant time (and potentially the All-Star Game) it will be longer before we get to see if these Warriors can pull it together.

Bamba suspended four games, Rivers three for fight Friday night

0 Comments

The NBA came down hard on Mo Bamba and Austin Rivers (in a way they didn’t with Dillon Brooks).

The Magic’s Bamba was suspended four-game and the Timberwolves’ Rivers got a three-game suspension — both without pay — for their part in a fight between the teams Friday night.

In addition, Magic guard Jalen Suggs was suspended one game for “escalating the altercation by aggressively grabbing Rivers around the neck and pulling him to the floor.” The Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels was fined $20,000 for running into the scrum and pushing Bamba in the back.

As for why the relatively stiff penalties in this case, the NBA said: “Following the incident, Bamba attempted to continue to engage with Rivers in a hostile manner in the corridor outside the locker rooms where he also aggressively shoved a security representative. Both Bamba and Rivers continued the escalation on social media following the game.”

Friction between Bomba and Rivers started a few plays earlier when Rivers — who was in the game — missed a corner 3 in front of the Magic bench, and there was jawing from Bamba and others. Rivers came over and confronted and the fight started soon after, with Bamba coming off the bench. After an official review, five players were ejected: Rivers, McDaniels and Taurean Prince from the Timberwolves; Bamba and Suggs from the Magic.

Banba and Rivers did continue the fight on social media, which added to their time off.

The suspensions will all start on Sunday, Feb. 5.

Kyrie Irving trade request update: Clippers reportedly make offer, LeBron says ‘duh’ Irving helps Lakers

0 Comments

Nets fans booed Kyrie Irving when he was put up on the jumbotron at Barclays Center before the game Friday night (Irving was out vs. the Wizards).

Irving requested a trade out of Brooklyn before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and the Nets are talking to several teams about a potential deal, with the Lakers, Suns and Mavericks at the front of the line. This trade could come together in the next few days, allowing the teams involved to make other moves before next Thursday’s deadline.

Here are the latest Kyrie Irving trade rumors:

• The Los Angeles Clippers have thrown their hat in the ring and made an offer for Irving, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by Law Murray of The Athletic.

There is pressure from ownership on down for the Clippers to win big this season — the team’s fourth with Kwahi Leonard and Paul George — and they need help at the point guard spot (they are interested in the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet if he becomes available as well). The Clippers have a lot of salaries between $10 million and $20 million — Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, Robert Covington, Reggie Jackson, Nicholas Batum — who can be packaged in different configurations, plus they have young talent that can be added in Terance Mann and Brandon Boston Jr.

Bringing in Irving would be a massive gamble by the Clippers — do they need another mercurial star prone to missing games? — but the Clippers want to win and will push all their chips into the middle.

LeBron James was asked after the Lakers’ loss Saturday night if Irving is the kind of player that can get the Lakers to the finish line and have them thinking championship.

“Obviously that’s, the word you use, ‘duh’ question when talking about a player like that.”

• Whatever you think of Irving the person, his trade demand is a smart business move — the Nets were not going to give him the max contract extension he wants, so he is trying to force his way to his next team, one that will pay up. And by pay up, that’s a four-year, $198.5 million contract. Wojnarowski of ESPN said this on NBA Countdown Saturday.

“Irving, who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $36.9 million, has been seeking in the neighborhood of a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension available to him until June 30, sources said. If Irving is traded, he is eligible to sign a two-year, $78.6 million extension with his new team until June 30.”

Any team that trades for Irving will have to pay up this summer when he is a free agent — he’s too expensive to be a rental. There are reports the Lakers and Mavericks are hesitant to give Irving that kind of long-term deal.

• If Irving doesn’t get traded before the deadline, he could hold out for the rest of the season, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reports.