Michael Redd’s 11-year NBA journey has taken him down many welcoming and unwelcoming streets. He went from a second-round draft pick to an All Star to the face of Milwaukee’s franchise to an injury-prone lucrative contract with a surgically repaired knee to potentially having nothing left to give at the young age of 32. Yet, after waiting and waiting for a chance, he will have the opportunity to prove he can still contribute. The Phoenix Suns have signed the 6’6″ shooting guard to a one-year contract.
What he can bring to the table is up in the air. Nonetheless, team President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby is happy to have him aboard and is confident in his abilities.
“Michael Redd has a proven pedigree as a first-rate NBA scorer,” he said. “He will work with our renowned training staff to get into basketball shape. When he is ready to play, Michael will be a welcome addition to our team.”
Redd isn’t in game shape yet. According to the Arizona Republic, he was winded after his workout with the team on Tuesday. Despite his current condition, the Suns saw enough to give him a chance. And he thinks he can make a significant impact.
“I want to play at the elite level that I’m accustomed to playing at,” Redd said, according to the paper. “I asked all the doctors this last surgery, ‘Can I play at the level I’m accustomed to playing at,’ and they said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s the goal for me, to come back and to play at an elite level — to do what I normally do and to have fun. More than anything, have fun and play without worrying about pain.”
Given his injury history, the reputation of the Suns medical staff only increased his interest in signing with the team.
“That was big,” he said. “That was one of the things that really drew me to this organization was the fact that they have an incredible medical staff. I wanted to be a part of that to get better, but I feel great.”
Pain-free and equipped with high expectations, Redd deserves to live up to his lofty goals. For a time, years ago, he was consistently electrifying, with a smooth, effortless lefty-stroke. Defenses couldn’t take an eye off him for one second, as his quick release and incredible range led to dazzling performance after dazzling performance. If he can be a solid role player, that would be tremendous. If he can indeed be the player he once was–the player he thinks he can be, even coming off multiple knee surgeries–that would be truly remarkable.
His left knee, which has been torn to shreds the past couple years, was examined for precautionary reasons before his signing the one-year deal worth the league’s veteran minimum. He had only played in 61 games over the previous three seasons, including only 10 games last season. He is 29 in NBA years, and if his knee holds up, the Suns could be in for a treat.
Redd should have a significant role on Phoenix. The team is not what it once was. Amar’e Stoudemire is long gone. Steve Nash is old. And the supporting cast is far from championship-caliber. There is a definitive need for what he can bring. The team scored only 83 points in Wednesday night’s 20-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. They had only 34 points at halftime. And their guard depth consists of Grant Hill, who is serviceable at age 39, streaky Shannon Brown, minimally used Josh Childress, and young, unproven point guards Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair. The team’s only dependable scoring threats are Hill and star point guard Steve Nash, and even they are showing their age. Redd, if healthy, should be a breath of fresh air.
Having watched the sad, rapid decline and sudden retirement of Brandon Roy, another player who was once the face of a franchise, it is nice to see someone with similarly bad knees be able to not only continue playing but believe he can still be great. And for Redd to be someone I followed intently over his glorious prime makes this chance that much more joyful. He went from perennial All Star to the operating table. Can he be the player he was all those years ago? Once an incredibly dangerous scorer, a confident unknown awaits.