REDICK EMBRACES PRESSURE OF BEING A CONTENDER
J.J. Redick has long embraced pressure.
He is among a handful of players in the past decade to appear in a Final Four and NBA Finals. He scored 43 points in a Virginia Group AAA title game at Cave Spring High in 2002. He is one of the most decorated and polarizing players in recent NCAA history.
In the prime of his career, Redick, 29, will face playing with expectations and pressure again. It was something he nearly insisted on during his foray into free agency this summer.
“Going back to the week or so we were getting this deal done during free agency, I mentioned to [Clippers head coach] Doc [Rivers] that I wanted to be in this situation because there was going to be pressure, because there was going to be expectations,” Redick said. “I feel like when I look back at my career I’ve always done better and I’ve always been happier when there’s more expectation and more pressure.”
The Clippers, who acquired Redick in a three-team sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, will enter the 2013-14 season with higher expectations than at any point in franchise history. Redick, who averaged a career-high 14.1 points and 3.8 assists between Orlando and Milwaukee last season and is a 39-percent career 3-point shooter, is slated to be a major contributor alongside superstar Chris Paul in the backcourt.
“I think I can pass the ball pretty well and I move the ball,” Redick said. “For most of last season in Orlando, I was averaging five assists a game, so that’s probably an overlooked part of my game. Part of that is playing out of catch-and-shoot, but also playing out of pick-and-rolls. I feel like I’m a guy who consistently makes the right play and the right reads offensively and that helps my teammates.”
More so than the numbers, though, Redick’s presence in L.A. is about how he meshes with a group that is charged with replacing two-fifths of their starting lineup following the departures of Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups.
“I felt my skillset, both from a physical standpoint and from a mental and approach standpoint, was a perfect fit for this team,” Redick said. “I still feel that way. Obviously, you have to go play games and see how you mesh as a team, but I see this as a great fit for me.”
Rivers is adamant about the same thing. “I’m really big on fit,” he said. “I’ll turn down a more talented player for a better fit for this team. And I think we’ve done a great job of that.”
Playing for Rivers, one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, also fits Redick’s résumé. His high school coach, Billy Hicks, is one of the winningest in the state of Virginia. He spent four years with legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and another five seasons with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando.
“I feel so fortunate to have great coaching,” Redick said. “Coaches that have taught me great habits and taught me great things about basketball and life, but I’ve always played for coaches who have held me accountable and that’s made me a better player and person. And I expect the same with Doc.”
“I felt my skillset, both from a physical standpoint and from a mental and approach standpoint, was a perfect fit for this team.”
Those same coaches viewed Redick as a complete basketball player. Too often throughout his career he’s been cast as merely a shooter, despite possessing ideal height (6-foot-4) and ability as a defender and pick-and-roll ball-handler. At Duke Redick proved as competitive and hard-nosed as anyone. He brought that, and the shooting, to the NBA level after being selected No. 11 overall in 2006 by the Magic.
Clippers forward Matt Barnes, who played with Redick for a season in Orlando, said one of the traits that stood out about his current and former teammate is that no matter how much opponents came at him he never backed down.
“I think people that know what they’re talking about see that side of me,” Redick said, agreeing with Barnes. “Playing for Coach K and for Stan for a number of years, that’s one thing that they always saw in me as well. You want your coaches to see that in you. You want your teammates to see that in you. The average NBA fan, they’re going to see a 6-4 white guy who can shoot the ball. I’ll never change that and I don’t really care about that.”
What Redick cares about is winning. It’s why he joined the Clippers and it’s why playing for Rivers, a no nonsense style of leader, appealed to him.
“I don’t want to come to work and have it be an AAU game,” Redick said. “I want to come to work and have it be a very serious thing where we’re trying to win a championship. I treat this like a job.”
That was clear in Redick’s offseason preparation as well. He worked out for more than two months in his hometown of Austin, Texas before coming out to Los Angeles to spend time on the court with his new teammates.
“Whenever the season ends I like to get away from the game a little bit, but I pride myself on not getting out of shape,” Redick said. “I do Yoga and Pilates and lift weights and do some functional stuff and conditioning during kind of the first 6-8 weeks of the offseason. Then after July 4, I start ramping it up a little bit. Basically, since the Monday after July 4, I’ve been doing six days a week. I take Saturdays off. Monday through Friday is pretty intense with some functional stuff, some lifting, some agility, some conditioning and always a basketball workout. Then, Sunday night, just get some shots up and kind of take it easy. I usually make about 350 shots on Sunday nights and then start the week over. It’s a pretty good routine that I’ve kind of developed over the last four or five years.
“In terms of things that I work on, I always feel like you can get better in any area. I know this year I’ll be playing a little bit more off of Chris, off of Blake [Griffin]. I didn’t like the way I shot the ball in Milwaukee, so I worked really hard on my shooting—threes off the move and off the catch. And also continued to work on my ball-handling and my in-between game—my runners and floaters.”
That’s when Redick gleaned a smile before deadpanning, “Obviously, you look at a situation and you say, ‘What do I need to do to fit in?’ I looked at the Clippers and said, ‘I really need to work on my dunk shots.’ I spent a lot of time this summer perfecting my dunk game.”
Whether he is glowing about the weather in Los Angeles, welcoming a role in Lob City, or discussing the number open looks he’ll get playing off Griffin and Paul, it’s proof even the serious side of Redick is embracing all aspects of the expectations that lie ahead.
“I’m very excited for the season,” Redick said. “Two months later I’m still pinching myself a little bit. My wife and I have talked about this a number of times, but I’ve always said to her how great it would be to be playing for a team in the prime of my career that had a chance to win and was in a market like L.A. What a great place to live. And playing for a coach like Doc and with a group of guys that you know is just a good group of guys. I feel very fortunate.”