With all of the Floridian love aimed down south at Miami this offseason, most have forgotten that its other team â€“ the one that’s currently riding two consecutive Eastern Conference Finals â€“ has also strengthened its squad through free agency. And Orlando has not only looked to reload its bench, it has accomplished the task mostly by staying in-house.
After the Magic fell to the Boston Celtics in six games during the ECF and into the summer, a main point of concern for its front office was what to do with guard J.J. Redick. For the casual observer, Redick has been nothing more than a backup shooting guard who occasionally strokes the trey ball. But for anyone who has followed the fifth year pro through an objective lens the past few seasons, has seen a player mature and transform his game to tailor fit exactly what the Magic need. Orlando certainly took notice of their young burgeoning asset and matched a restricted free agent offer sheet J.J. signed with the Chicago Bulls in July to the tune of three-years, $19 million.
Now back on one of the League’s best teams, Redick is ready to make an even bigger splash this season â€“ carrying over averages of 9.6 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field. And even with his busy offseason â€“ one that also included getting hitched and traversing around Europe for nearly a month â€“ J.J. still found some time to kick some knowledge with us at Dime.
Dime: You’ve had a pretty busy summer away from the office this year; getting married, going through free agency, how’s it all been going?
J.J. Redick: (laughs) It’s been an interesting summer; a very fruitful summer I’d say. I just feel really blessed. My wife and I got married at the end of June and I got to go on a three-week honeymoon. Then I got back from that, I trained for three weeks and then we actually took a trip out to California to San Francisco and the Napa area with a couple of my family members. Then got back from that and just back to training and pretty much locked in for the rest of the off-season to getting better.
Dime: You also signed with the Chicago Bulls as a restricted free agent before Orlando matched to the offer to bring you back. Did you always expect to be back with the Magic?
JJ: I did expect to ultimately be back in Orlando going into free agency. But, you know Chicago, the way they structured the deal, it was front-loaded so I wasn’t sure. And I told my wife this and I told my family this, going into free agency, that if there was a situation where a team made a good offer and it was a winning team, then it was a no-brainer. Because if I went to that team then I was going to be in a great situation and if Orlando matched, then I was going to return to a great situation too. Chicago, you know was a no-brainer. And I was excited about the opportunity to possibly start for them, but you know I can’t complain. I mean Orlando’s a great situation; we’ve had a lot of success the last three years and I think our guys are hungry for another chance to make a run at the Finals.
Dime: It’s got to be a strained process, but at least you’re taking everything as a positive.
JJ: Yeah, I mean I can’t complain. Either way I was going to have a job for next year, so that’s the way I look at it. It’s just the nature of our business; things can change quickly. You know, if you had asked me during my second year with the Magic if I was going to play out my rookie deal with them, I would have told you you’re crazy. And if you had said, well they’re going to match a three-year offer from another team at the end of that rookie contract, I’d say you’re nuts. And it’s just, I work hard and kind of carved out a niche with the Magic and they valued that.
Dime: Do you think it’s getting to the point that you should be a starting shooting guard with Orlando?
JJ: I’ll be politically correct about it because that’s the honest answer: I would like to start on an NBA team. But I’d also like to start on a really good NBA team. And for me, there’s no substitute for winning. So, if I have to play my whole career on playoff teams and be a backup, I’m fully cool with that. You know, I just want to be a part of a great organization and a winning team, and I have it with the Magic. Whether Vince [Carter] sticks around for two more years or one more year or four more years, I’m not going to complain. I’m happy with my situation.
Dime: What have you been doing to get ready for the upcoming season?
JJ: I pride myself on being in great shape. So I’ve just tried to continue to get stronger and I started, restarted I guess you’d say â€“ haven’t done it in a year â€“ but restarted my Pilates routine. So I do Pilates twice a week. And that’s been really good for my legs and my core and my hips, which is something that I’ve wanted to get stronger. And you know, just continuing to work on my game. I mean, I feel like most players will tell you this, there are a lot of things I can improve on. I always feel like I can improve on my shooting; I always feel like I can shoot the ball better. And my ball handling and shooting off the dribble. So just continue to do that stuff, but also spending a lot of time working on my body.
Dime: That’s interesting that you target your shooting as an area for improvement, considering it’s always been your main weapon.
JJ: Ah yeah, I look at it as my craft. As my skill and I have to own my skill at all times.
Dime: The Magic have also made some other, albeit smaller, offseason moves like acquiring your former teammate Chris Duhon. Do you think there’s still room to improve the roster?
JJ: Well the way I see it, I think our group is great â€“ and it’s a group that can win an NBA championship. Headed into the Boston series last year, a lot of prognosticators picked us and we just got off to a terrible start in that series. And Boston really dominated us in two of those games. I just think that it’s who’s playing well at the right time. You know, the same thing happened to the Cavs two years ago; it’s very similar. They win their first two round games and then they lose at home in Game 1. So it’s kind of what happened to us. I think we had the chance to win a championship last year and I think we have a good shot to do it this year. And everyone on our team, with an older group, we know how much we have to put into a season, starting in October, to get it done.
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