Each year the NBA draft produces a handful of surprise picks and some wheeling-and-dealing that GMs apparently get suckered into (see Thomas, Isiah). And sometimes those circumstances lend to fitting square pegs into round holes.
This seems to be the case for JJ Redick, the rarely-used shooting guard for the Orlando Magic.
For Redick, one of the best nights of his life quickly turned into a situation unlike any he has faced in his basketball career.
He couldn’t get on the court.
In fact, for two years, Redick has been sitting on the bench in Orlando.
And for two years, Redick has been asking for everyone to politely let him leave.
In Redick’s first year, the Magic’s head coach was Brian Hill, who was brought back in to bring strong defensive principles, discipline, and “stability.” Unfortunately for Hill, nobody told him the plans had changed after they hired him.
Needless to say, Redick didn’t fit into Hill’s style of play—and other than a few games of mop up minutes, Redick rarely played in his rookie season.
So when Hill was run out of town (for the second time), and Billy Donovan was named the new head coach, Redick was beaming with optimism.
Just as Donovan watched Redick tear up record books at Duke for four years, Redick watched Donovan convert a lightly recruited six-foot shooting guard (Lee Humphrey) into one of the most lethal weapons in the nation—both as a shooter and on-the-ball defender.
It was the match Redick longed for, and playing time was right around the corner.
But the marriage didn’t last long, as Donovan had a change of heart and decided to head back to the college game.
Making matters worse for Redick was that the Magic’s Plan B was Stan Van Gundy, who does not exactly share the same playbook as Donovan.
And so the Redick saga continued.
Coming from the old-school Pat Riley lineage, Van Gundy—like Hill—preaches defense, defense, defense. And while the Magic have made significant improvements, Redick continues to sit on the pine game after game.
Listening to GM Otis Smith talk about Redick, it is clear (at least from a publicity standpoint) that the Magic are not interested in trading Redick. Smith and Van Gundy both say Redick has the qualities needed for NBA success: potential, work ethic, and—most importantly—that trademark textbook jumpshot.
But if the Magic haven’t committed to playing Redick yet, what exactly is going to change next year, or the year after that, to make them trust Redick?
I certainly can’t question Van Gundy’s approach. The guy clearly knows what he is doing and is a proven NBA head coach. But sometimes the idea of surrounding one of the most dominant centers in Dwight Howard with Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Redick seems like a pretty good plan.
Magic fans seem to want the same thing, chanting Redick’s name in home games. Clearly, Orlando fans want to see if Redick can compete in the NBA.
If Redick stays on the Magic, however, that may never happen.
Playing in front of him are NBA-known commodities (aka Van Gundy favorites) and hustle guys or defensive specialists: Maurice Evans, Keith Bogans, and Keyon Dooling, who plays the point and shooting guard.
When the Magic beat the Cavs on April 5th, their playoff spot was locked in at number three. Since then, they have not been able to move up or down.
Yet Redick still sits.
In the three games since clinching their playoff spot, Redick has played a total of three minutes. Against the lowly Knicks and Timberwolves, Redick did not see the floor. In a blowout of the Bulls last night, Van Gundy gave Redick a whole three minutes of glory.
In 80 games this season, Redick has racked up 48 DNP-CDs.
Like the rest of the nation, I am not a Duke fan. But I want to see Redick get on the court. I want to see if he can succeed on the NBA level.
Play him or trade him, but in any case: Free JJ.