Clippers’ J.J. Redick alarmed at what he sees going on in the ‘real world’ outside basketball
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, in a playful mood after a Jan. 11 win over Orlando, had an off-the-wall request of reporters as he ended his news conference: Ask the players who would follow him into the interview room who they liked in the upcoming boxing match between rappers Chris Brown and Soulja Boy.
Point guard Chris Paul wouldn’t bite. Center DeAndre Jordan chuckled and said, “I don’t know yet, I’ve got to study some tape.” And J.J. Redick, the veteran shooting guard who used to love “battle-rapping” his AAU teammates as a kid?
“I spent most of my day reading op-eds on [Donald] Trump’s press conference,” Redick said, “so I literally have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Redick’s response elicited laughter from everyone in the room … except Redick, who was stone-faced.
“I wasn’t kidding,” Redick said in a later interview. “I’m a voracious reader … and I’ve become sort of obsessed with Trump in the last six months. I don’t really speak about it, not because it’s not my place or I don’t have a voice — I do. But I would say this: There’s been a lot of jokes and side comments from people in the league about [White House Press Secretary] Sean Spicer and alternative facts and all that stuff, but I don’t think any of it is funny.
“I’m actually horrified right now. People who are losing their healthcare, women who are losing their right to decide what to do with their body, that’s not funny to me. So, you can joke about crowd size [at Trump’s inauguration] and all of that B.S., but it’s not funny.”
A younger Reddick, especially the cocky sharpshooter many loved to hate at Duke from 2002 to 2006, would not have held, let alone voiced, such strong political opinions.
But Redick is 32 now, in his 11th NBA season, and he and his wife, Chelsea, have two sons, 2½-year-old Knox and 5-month-old Kai. With age, experience — and especially fatherhood — has come maturity, a more serious approach to life and basketball and increased social awareness.
I’m a voracious reader … and I’ve become sort of obsessed with Trump in the last six months.
J.J. Redick, Clippers shooting guard
“Especially now that you have kids, you think about everything,” Redick said. “You think about gun control and what that means, and what’s the best practice for that. You want your kids to grow up in a world that’s better than the one you grew up in. I’m not talking about my own family’s wealth. I’m talking about the actual world and all the issues that we have.”
Rivers encourages his players to be more socially conscious, and he applauds Redick’s efforts “because it’s real life,” the coach said. “What we do is not real life. This is a make-believe world, but once you walk outside the arena you’re in the world, and I think our guys need to try to be involved with it.”
Redick plans to delve deeper into outside topics when he resumes his podcast for The Vertical, the Yahoo Sports digital hub for NBA news, information and storytelling, after the season. If the 40 podcasts he taped last year are any indication, no subject will be too difficult to tackle.
“For me, I can only talk so much about basketball, and I get a little bored,” said Redick, who suspended the podcast in November to concentrate on basketball and family. “I’ve already talked to some people about some different issues that have nothing to do with sports, so I’ll pick them up.”
When The Vertical editor Adrian Wojnarowski approached Redick in the summer of 2015, it was to write periodic blog posts “about what it’s like to be on the road with kids, to be traded at the deadline, to go through a shooting slump,” Redick said.
“I started getting anxiety, like I was in college again and had a term paper due,” he said. “I know my procrastination techniques when it comes to writing.”
When his agent suggested a podcast, Redick jumped, with one condition: He wanted full control over content.
While he’s leaned heavily on teammates, opponents and coaches, Redick has summoned guests from other fields, such as former New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden, television executive Ben Winston, actor Jerry Ferrara (Turtle on “Entourage”), Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and golfer Jason Day.
Redick and Rhoden discussed San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s controversial decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial oppression. During NBA free agency in July, Redick had Wojnarowski and Clippers executive Lawrence Frank as guests.
“I try to keep things as relevant as possible,” said Redick, who books all of his guests. “Ideally, you’re feeling like you’re a fly on the wall and listening to a conversation between two people talking about hoops and life and other topics.”
“You exercise for two straight hours, and somebody puts a microphone in your face 30 seconds after you’re done,” Griffin said, reciting part of his routine. “Did you not think it was a bad idea to ask somebody who spent their entire life lifting weights and cheating their way through school questions on live TV?”
Redick’s favorite podcast moment was when Rodgers, a two-time NFL most valuable player, talked about mastering mechanics in imperfect environments.
“Whether you’re throwing a football against a blitz or reading the pick-and-roll or hitting a 7-iron from 180 yards onto an elevated green with the wind blowing left to right, that’s all you’re ultimately trying to do in sports, master mechanics in imperfect environments,” Redick said. “I don’t know if anyone has ever succinctly said it in that way.”
Redick seems as comfortable and confident behind the microphone as he is with an open look at the basket, which he finds ironic. He was “a very introverted kid” at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Va., and said he “wasn’t obsessed with being in the popular crowd” at Duke.
If anything, Redick was, in his own words, “a little bit of a …” in college. Duke’s success has long made it a target of loathing outside of Durham, N.C., but Redick embraced the villain role, agitating fans who jeered him by excessively celebrating some of his bigger baskets.
“Nothing can prepare an 18-year-old for the fishbowl that is Duke basketball,” Redick said, “so that was difficult.”
Redick averaged 19.9 points in four seasons at Duke, reaching the Final Four once, in 2004. Though he remains the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,769 points, Redick cringes at parts of his college career.
“I’m not sure my own family liked me at Duke,” Redick said. “It was one of those things where you go off to college and your parents call you two or three times a week, and you maybe talk to them once a month.
“It’s important to carve your own path, but looking back, I probably would have avoided some of the pitfalls and mistakes I made from the ages of 18 [to] 23 if I had listened to my Dad and Mom a little bit more.”
There were more youthful indiscretions — Redick’s arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol in North Carolina two weeks before the Magic used the 11th pick of the 2006 draft on him; his misguided purchase of an Orlando home that he lost $345,000 on when he sold it, the impulse purchase of an expensive sports car that caused back spasms and forced him to sell it two months later.
Redick said his life began to turn in the fall of 2008 when he re-focused his faith — “I was always a believer,” he said, “but I sort of became an adult Christian, if that makes sense” — and began dating Chelsea Kilgore, whom he married in 2010.
“She didn’t allow me to be a [jerk],” Redick said, “and she still doesn’t.”
A more serene Redick was better able to handle the frustrations of his first seven NBA seasons, when he started only 54 of 424 games for Orlando and Milwaukee. The birth of Knox in 2014, the year he signed a four-year, $27-million contract with the Clippers, brought more perspective.
“When you have grounding principles and people in your life who keep you on a solid foundation,” Redick said, “you’re less likely to sway with the ups and downs of a high-pressured job like the NBA.”
The one constant in Redick’s life is the sweet stroke that made him one of the best outside shooters at every level he’s played at. Redick was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, a two-time first-team All-American at Duke, and he led the NBA with a 47.5% three-point field-goal percentage in 2015-2016.
Redick, who is averaging 15.7 points and shooting 43.5% (127 of 292) from three-point range this season, has always been a dead-eye spot-up shooter. But in recent years, he’s improved his ability to catch-and-shoot, shoot on the run and make contested jumpers.
In a late-November game against Toronto, Redick peeled off two high screens on the perimeter, took an in-bounds pass on the fly and, falling hard to his right, hit a 25-foot shot at the halftime buzzer that amazed his coach.
“I’ve never seen a guy run so fast and have the balance to make a shot,” Rivers said. “That three he made before halftime … maybe four guys in the league could make that.”
Redick, who has been mentioned in trade rumors involving New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, compared such shots to the familiarity a golfer has with his swing, “where the muscle sequencing all works, and the mind-body connection is there,” he said. “It’s the same thing shooting off screens.
“You’re thinking about where your defender is, where the help defender is, did I catch the ball on the seams? If I catch the ball off the seams, I’m actually gonna aim it a little bit differently, and my release point is gonna be a little different.”
Could Redick have actually mastered his mechanics in an imperfect environment? He wouldn’t go that far.
“There’s never a moment in my life where I’ve ever said, ‘Oh, OK, I’ve arrived,’ ” Redick said. “There’s always room for improvement.”
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