Ever since he first put on a Clippers jersey, J.J. Redick might as well have been wearing camouflage.
He’d skate through defenses, moving with incredible pace and precision. He’d rub off screens and create the tiniest of windows to launch shots without a thought.
You think you had him covered, and boom, three points would be added to the Clippers’ tally on the scoreboard.
He called it “shot hunting,” and his den is full of nets mounted on the wall.
For the Clippers, it was always one of the biggest, sneakiest reasons why the team won way more than they lost. Coach Doc Rivers called Redick an “offense unto himself,” and his movement and scoring early in games set everything into motion for the team’s offense.
But with Utah’s Joe Ingles draped all over him in this first-round series, ignoring the other four Clippers on the court, Redick couldn’t hunt. And with the Jazz cutting off such an important offensive supply line, the offense went hungry far too many times.
Rivers and the Clippers knew this needed to be addressed. They ran plays designed specifically for Redick to get open shots at the start of the first and third quarters. Neither produced the jumper intended.
After the early failures, the Clippers seemingly abandoned a major part of their offense that had been so critical, especially early in games. Instead, the ball stayed mostly in Chris Paul’s hands until a pick-and-roll initiated the offense.
This season, only 29 players in the league scored more points in the first quarter than Redick, a list that includes Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
During the series, Redick averaged only 9.1 points, shooting 38% from the field and 34.2% from long range. And those numbers were greatly aided by a 26-point effort in a tight Game 5 loss.
“We didn’t try to get him going at times,” Rivers admitted. “I thought instead of fighting it, use him as a spacer. Obviously, I would’ve loved to figure out a better way to get him.
After the game, Redick wore the disappointment — his eyes bleary, a Dodgers cap pulled down over part of his face. He said the one thing that rattled around in his mind was “the recurring disappointment.”
“It’s always difficult to have your season end in disappointment,” he said before clearing his throat.
And, whether Redick or anyone else admits it, it’s difficult because the future is so cloudy. Redick will be a free agent this summer, and he’s earned a hefty raise — one that could push him out of the Clippers’ price range.
While he talked about the Clippers maybe figuring things out next year, he said he’s not thinking about his future. “The playoffs are always emotional. It was an emotional series for both teams. It was an emotional series for me,” Redick said. “I’m just processing emotion right now. I’m not thinking about the future.”
Paul Pierce had a smile on his face inside the Clippers locker room after the loss, at peace with his decision to retire. Pierce, who had announced this would be his last season, scored six points Sunday. “No regrets,” he said. … Blake Griffin will meet with a foot specialist on the East Coast on Monday, as he and doctors try to determine whether he’ll need surgery on his right big toe. … Paul tweaked his ankle during Sunday’s loss, Rivers said. He finished with 13 points, his lowest scoring total of the series.