Redick, Duke Have Big Night Together
"Go Blue Devils. Go Blue Devils,'' was the chant he kept hearing on his walk out. It only made him smile more.
It certainly was a good, good night for the Dookies.
At almost the same time that storied Duke University returned to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in six years, one of its most celebrated alums was having a wonderful night of his own.
Redick, whose NBA assent has been a slow, often-frustrating climb, must have thought he was back in college again. It has been years since he played like this.
"This was a very satisfying night,'' he understated. "One of the best of my career.''
Redick, now in his fourth NBA season, had career highs in minutes played (46:25), rebounds (7) and assists (8), also scoring 23 points to lead the Magic to a 103-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
For stars in the NBA, those numbers would be average at best. For Redick, they were huge, attracting the kind of attention he once garnered every night at Duke.
He has gone from one of the most celebrated players in college basketball history to a role-playing auxiliary, but at least for one night, he dominated a game.
He hit three-point shots. He drove and finished. He drove and passed. He orchestrated a nifty give-and-go that got an easy score for backup center Marcin Gortat. He even snagged a rebound in traffic.
"It was fun to be out there like that,'' he said. "As a player, when you know you aren't coming out, you don't force things. You just let the game come to you. It's great to play that way.''
Redick, who has started just 14 games in his NBA career, got his opportunity Sunday when Vince Carter hobbled off the court just 1:35 into the game with a sprained big toe. With Michael Pietrus already out with a sprained right ankle, it was Redick or nothing at shooting guard Sunday night.
A guy who was averaging 21.7 minutes this season had no problem playing the rest of the game.
"I thought the key to J.J.'s performance was the rest I gave him at the beginning of the game, so he could be fresh,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy joked. "That was the most we've played anyone this season. He is one of the best -- if not the best -- conditioned guys in the league. He was tremendous.''
Redick hit eight of his 15 shots, three-of-seven from 3-point range. He was on the court for every point the Magic scored Sunday night.
"We are a deep team. We have guys who can play multiple positions. I'm not one of them,'' he laughed. "But I know I can play 40 minutes. I'm in good enough shape to do it. That's how you improve in games, when you know you'll be in there long enough, you get to try things a little bit.''
Redick will be back to his normal backup role when the Magic (52-22) return to action Thursday night. Both Carter and Pietrus should be ready to play.
They are close to securing the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, partially because of their depth. Although Dwight Howard and Carter have carried them all season, it was their depth that carried them Sunday. And it wasn't just Redick. Backup forward Ryan Anderson had 19 points, hitting seven of eight shots.
"Over your career, there are highs and lows. It's a journey, not a sprint,'' Redick said. "It's one of the things that have helped me, whether you have a good game or a bad game, this is a process.''