The transformation of J.J. Redick

One bright spot for the Magic in this Boston series has been the play of reserve guard J.J. Redick. In four games, he has averaged 11.5 points and has hit 7-of-13 shots from long range.

So how did the former first round pick go from appearing in just 76 games in his first two seasons to playing crucial minutes in an Eastern Conference Final?

I can’t point to just one thing, though he wouldn’t be getting any minutes if he wasn’t playing good defense. He has done a nice job of chasing Ray Allen around screens, which is something that the guy starting ahead of him — Vince Carter — doesn’t do very well. Redick is a nice matchup for Allen because it takes a while for Ray Ray to put the ball on the floor, and that allows Redick, who is not fleet of foot, to cut off the drive.

He’s also making his shots, which is another area of the game where Carter is really struggling. Sure, Carter has the athleticism to penetrate, but what’s the point of having him on the court if he’s only making 37% of his shots and 18% from long range? If you’re Stan Van Gundy, wouldn’t you rather have Redick out there? At least he’ll knock down some shots when given the opportunity.

It has been an interesting road for the former college player of the year. He certainly had his detractors coming into the league, but when you can shoot like he can, there’s a place for you in the NBA, assuming you can figure out how to defend. And that’s exactly what Redick has done.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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ECF Game 2: Celtics take 2-0 lead

Celtics 95, Magic 92

Well, we can pretty much stick a fork in the Magic. When a team loses the first two games of the series at home, they aren’t coming back. They’re just not. It doesn’t happen. Well, maybe it’s happened once or twice, I don’t know. (Update: Teams that win the first two games on the road have won the series 22 of 25 times, per John Hollinger.) It would take a miracle…or maybe an injury.

So barring that, the Magic have to be left wondering what happened. They cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning eight straight games, and ran into a brick wall in the form of the Boston Celtics. The difference in this series is that the C’s are simply a lot better than the Bobcats and Hawks. In fact, I think you could combine the rosters for the Bobcats and Hawks and Boston would still beat them in a seven-game series. That’s how good the Celtics are playing now.

Ray Allen lit it up in Game 1, but was quiet in Game 2. Paul Pierce picked up the slack, posting 28-5-5. Kevin Garnett (10-9) struggled shooting the ball once again, but there was Rajon Rondo with a timely 25-5-8. Quick — name five point guards that are better than Rondo right now. I bet you can’t.

Dwight Howard (30-8) played a lot better in Game 2, and even hit his free throws (12-of-17), but the rest of the Magic shot just 19-of-58 (33%) from the field for 62 points. Jameer Nelson (4-of-12), Vince Carter (5-of-15) and Rashard Lewis (2-of-6), who combined to make $42 million this season, shot a collective 11-of-33 from the field. At home.

I’ll wait until the Magic actually lose the series before I write their offseason piece, but at this point the entire region of Central Florida has to be regretting that Vince Carter move. In the final period, Carter went 2-of-5, turned the ball over once, and missed back-to-back free throws with 0:32 to play that would have cut Boston’s lead to one. Luckily for Otis Smith, Hedo Turkoglu’s play fell off a cliff in Toronto, so it’s not like Smith’s detractors can point to Turk as a no-brainer re-signing.

As for Boston, what has spearheaded this rejuvenation? To me, it’s a combination of several factors: 1) Rondo is now a Top 5 point guard, so it’s the Big 4 instead of the Big 3, and at least two are showing up every night, 2) Garnett’s knee looks a lot better, 3) they’re playing arguably the best defense in the league, and 4) someone on the bench — Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace or Glen Davis — seems to show up every game with an unexpected 8-15 points.

The Celtics are also made up of consummate professionals, so even though they have their ring, they’re going out every night and laying it on the line.

With the way both teams are playing, there’s a good chance we’re going to see a matchup of the last two Finals winners (Lakers, Celtics) and a rematch of the 2008 Finals.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Vince Carter hits 86-foot shot, sitting down [video]

I don’t know about you, but if I were shooting a career low 40.4% from the field, these are NOT the kinds of shots I’d be practicing. Anyway, here it is…

Shaq’s idea to revamp the dunk contest

“As his manager, I will only allow ‘Bron to do the dunk contest if Vince Carter comes back out. If Kobe comes back out and if another big name comes back out. If we could get a big prize and have half of the money go to the people of Haiti and the other half to the winner. The guys that are in it, no disrespect to them, but there won’t really be any competition for LeBron. I want to see Kobe. I want to see Vince and I will allow my client to enter. I’m saying it now. So tweet it. Facebook it. E-mail it and hopefully it gets out. Vince, we’re calling you out. Kobe, we’re calling you out. We’re calling everybody out. If those guys step up in the dunk contest, then I will allow my client to step up.”

Shaquille O’Neal (via the AP and ESPN)

The Top 10 Head Scratchers of the 2009 NBA Offseason

The NBA offseason is by no means over, but the lion’s share is behind us, so it’s a good time to take a look back at a few of the…um…let’s say “questionable” decisions of the summer. Here are my Top 10, in no particular order. Feel free to add to the list if I missed something.

1. Trevor Ariza plays spiteful hardball…and loses.
Let’s get this straight — the Lakers offered Ariza the same deal he was getting on the open market, and he refused since the Lakers could have offered more, but didn’t? Um, okay. David Lee (the agent, not the Knicks forward) says that Ariza wanted to go somewhere where he’d be “appreciated.” Lee overestimated the market for his client, and the Lakers quickly moved on to acquire Ron Artest. Now instead of playing for the world champs, Ariza is stuck in Houston on a team that faces a very uncertain future. Lee now says that Ariza turned down a deal worth $9 million more, but still picked Houston. It sounds to me like he’s just trying to save face.

2. Grizzlies acquire Zach Randolph.
Once the Clippers traded for Randolph (and his toxic contract) last season, I thought the bar for NBA general managers had hit a new low thanks to Mike Dunleavy and his wily ways. But Dunleavy proved that he wasn’t the dumbest GM in the league when he convinced the Memphis Grizzlies to take on the final two years Randolph’s contract at the tune of $33.3 million. Remember that $25 million or so of cap space that the Grizzlies were going to have next summer? Yeah, that’s down to about $8 million with this brilliant move. Just when it looked like Chris Wallace was going to rehab his image after the Pau Gasol trade — Marc Gasol panning out, trading for O.J. Mayo — he goes and does this. Sigh.

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