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.