Carter Slides as Redick Rises in Orlando
The Orlando Magic may get lucky with this one.
Carter, acquired from New Jersey this summer to replace Hedo Turkoglu, was supposed to be the one to put the Magic over the top -- get them past Boston and Cleveland again this spring -- but he is going to need help from his backup.
The Magic (21-7) are tied with the Celtics for the most wins in the Eastern Conference, but they have done it with Carter struggling through the least-productive season of his decorated career.
His slide has coincided with the surprising rise of Redick, now in his fourth NBA season.
"J.J. is playing well,'' Carter said after a 104-99 victory over the Utah Jazz Monday night. "He's a guy we're going to need.''
Carter, 32, is leading the Magic in scoring (18.4 ppg), but he is averaging less than 20 points for the first time since his rookie season in Toronto (18.3 ppg, 1998-99). He also is shooting just 39.9 percent from the field, the lowest percentage of his career.
Redick, now in his fourth NBA season, finally is carving his role, averaging 9.5 points and shooting 47.5 percent from the field, both career highs. He also is shooting a team-best 45.7 percent from three-point range.
It was Redick, and not Carter, who carried the Magic in the fourth quarter Monday night, playing all 12 minutes and scoring 11 points in the period when he hit four of his six shots.
"I wanted to get Vince back in the game,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "But there was no way I was taking out J.J. He was playing too well.''
Van Gundy left Redick at shooting guard and moved Carter to small forward, forcing him to guard the much-bigger Andrei Kirilenko. It's a lineup the Magic may be seeing more of as the season progresses.
Redick scored 20 points Monday, hitting seven of his nine shots. In the last seven games, he has made 28 of 41 shots. He also has hit 12 of 22 from 3-point range. In those same seven games, Carter has hit just 36 of 103 shots.
"I'm not into analyzing too much. You do what it takes to get the wins,'' Carter said. "The shooting percentage will go up. You keep playing. You keep plugging, and good things will happen.''
Carter no longer has the spring in his game that once made him so tough to guard. The off-balance shots that usually found their mark are going astray now. He still will be the guy with the ball down the stretch for the Magic, but he may be looking to pass more often than ever.
Redick played well in place of Carter early this season when he missed four games with a sprained ankle. In one start in Toronto, Redick scored a career-high 27 points with six rebounds and five assists.
Van Gundy has rewarded Redick's improved play with more playing time recently. He has responded by scoring in double figures in five of his last seven games. His defense is better, too. His assists are up, and his understanding of the game is as good as anyone else on the team.
"He's playing with great confidence, and with good reason. Success breeds confidence,'' Van Gundy said. "He's so focused, so on top of everything. He's got great confidence in himself now, and we've got confidence in him.''
Redick was regarded as an NBA bust in the first two years of career after leaving Duke University as the Player of the Year in college basketball. Gradually, he has relearned the game, and it's paying off.
"I'm 6-4, and minimally athletic,'' he said. "I'm not going to be out there getting double-doubles. I'm not long, and I'm not tall, but there are other ways to be successful in this league. I don't want to jinx myself now by saying anything. I'll just roll with what's working.''