Bruce Maddox - Orlando Pinstriped Post
Orlando Pinstriped Post presents coverage of Orlando Magic Media Day.
J.J. Redick is back with the Orlando Magic on his second contract, as the team matched the three-year, $19 million offer sheet he signed with the Chicago Bulls, and he's "excited" to return. "Central Florida is home to me now," he said, adding, "the fans in my four years have been amazing." But he's eager to prove that last year's Eastern Conference Finals loss to the lower-seeded Boston Celtics wasn't indicative of Orlando's true abilities.
"I still have a bitter taste in my mouth," he said, reflecting upon that series. "I don't know if we could have beaten Boston last year because we didn't play our best game. We just... we got our butts kicked." He said that Orlando has emphasized toughness this offseason in response to that playoff defeat, calling it "the theme of our season."
Boston clearly wears heavily on Redick's mind. "[Toughness is] a big reason why Boston beat us," he said, carefully adding that he means more than simply physical toughness. "It's mental, man. Those guys were tougher mentally than us during that series."
In response, Redick has worked on improving his skills and his body this offseason. He said he improved "that in-between shot: those runners, those floaters" as well as his ballhandling ability, so he can "score when people run me off my jump shot." Additionally, he took up Pilates twice a week once the playoffs ended to strengthen his hips and, in turn, to improve his "lateral movement." He says he's "seen results already."
The Celtics aren't the Magic's only concern, though Redick says they're still "the favorites" to win the Eastern Conference this season. When asked why he didn't pick the Miami Heat, who added All-Star forwards LeBron James and Chris Bosh this offseason, Redick said, "until you win something, you're not the favorite." He is excited to play Miami--"on paper, it's great," he said--however, because there's already "a natural rivarly" between the teams due to their proximity to one another. He also mentioned coach Stan Van Gundy's history with Miami as another factor contributing to the in-state rivalry.
One way in which the Magic tried to address their lack of toughness this summer was to sign veteran swingman Quentin Richardson, whom Redick termed "a welcome addition." He also attested to Richardson's toughness, saying, "I've played against him, and I know how tough he is to play against physically." The six-foot-six veteran will likely start at small forward and draw the assignment of defending the opponent's highest-scoring perimeter player.
Redick is no stranger to Chris Duhon, the Magic's other significant addition, as he played with him for two seasons at Duke. "I had a blast playing with him [in college]," he said with a smile.
Redick's positive attitude toward the Magic contrasts sharply with where he stood after two years with the team, during which he played sparingly. "I definitely didn't think [...] that I would re-sign with them after my rookie contract [expired]," Redick said. In the two seasons since, Redick vastly improved his game, and earned the trust of the coaching staff. So he's relieved to be back. "Thank God I wasn't traded, or anything like that."