Magic's Redick looks to make new name for himself
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -J.J. Redick has been called every dirty four-letter word. He's dodged plastic cups and garbage, and he's read all the signs that mock him in almost every arena he plays.
For a guy his Orlando Magic teammates call the most-booed player in the NBA, Redick sure has a lot of confidence going into the biggest game of a professional career that has had more disappointments than highlights.
The former Duke star that so many fans love to hate is expected to start in place of injured guard Courtney Lee in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston or Chicago. In perhaps the most critical spot for the Magic, Redick has a challenge for fans on the road.
"I just want some creativity, that's all I want,'' Redick said Saturday. "I haven't heard creative things since college. Like really, I don't know if it's the alcohol consumption at NBA games, but there's nothing remotely creative or funny ever said to me. It's boring. I'm so conditioned to it now.''
The Magic are hoping his play matches his confidence.
The No. 11 pick in the 2006 draft, few players have ever entered the NBA with such a household name and such high expectations as Redick. He made more 3-pointers (457) than anyone in NCAA history and was one of the most prolific free throw shooters ever at Duke, a premier program fans already love to abuse.
Combine all that with his surefire attitude, and Redick might be the most maligned reserve in the league.
"That's the first time I've seen a guy like that get booed in almost every arena we go to,'' Magic forward Rashard Lewis said. "I don't know why, but a lot of people don't like him. You either love him, or you hate him.''
Living up to the high billing has been a struggle.
Redick has averaged 5.5 points in his NBA career. Although he played more minutes (17.4 per game) this season than ever before, he hasn't always been a consistent member of the Magic's rotation and at times is still "reduced to cheerleading,'' as he described it.
Playing time got so thin last season that Redick and his agent went public with his frustration, asking to get more minutes or be traded. Redick's nearly month-long slump between this March and April shook his confidence to the point he even joked he was going to watch his own instructional shooting video, "Better Basketball.''
But things have since cooled between Redick and the Magic, and the streaky shooting guard now finds himself with an opportunity that never seemed like it would come in Orlando.
"It's been a process,'' Redick said. "It hasn't always been enjoyable when I've been in the moment, but I'm ecstatic that it's happened the way it has because it has forced me to be a better player. It's also humbled me a little bit, made me a better person.''
Redick surprised most in his first playoff start.
He scored 15 on five 3-pointers in the Game 6 clincher against Philadelphia in place of Lee, who is expected to miss at least the first two games of the second-round series - and probably more - after having surgery on his fractured sinus. The Magic will play the winner of Saturday night's Game 7 between Boston and Chicago, and the pressure for Redick to perform will be even greater.
"I've been telling J.J. the whole season, 'Keep shooting the ball, the shots are going to fall,''' Magic center Dwight Howard said. "He came out, and he was on fire. He just has to keep it up.''
That could be difficult.
An undersized guard who's often criticized for his lack of defense and dribble penetration, Redick will face either Boston's Ray Allen or Chicago's Ben Gordon. The pair of guards present matchup problems for Redick, but Magic coach Stan Van Gundy insists Redick's assertiveness will help make up for what he lacks in size and strength.
"I think he knows what we want from him more probably as well as any of our players at both ends,'' Van Gundy said. "He's a guy that I think helps the other guys play well on the floor.''
One thing Redick knows he can prepare for is being mocked by fans and players. Of course, he said that's the one thing that doesn't get him rattled.
Redick said players love to taunt him by saying in a high-pitched voice, "The greatest college shooter of all-time.'' And the North Carolina fans, who are seemingly everywhere, will be sure to tell him that Duke stinks.
"It's a big opportunity at a very important time of the year,'' he said. "With every game, the stakes go higher. I'm sure the boos will, too.''
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