Each player has his own route to the postseason; as for J.J. Redick, his journey was a bit more arduous than others'.
As a decorated sharp-shooter from Duke, J.J. Redick is one of the most difficult shooting guards to defend in the NBA. Mostly playing off of his motions and with screens, Redick is one of the game's top three-point shooters, and drives defenses insane with his movement without the ball.
"Shooter, moves well without the ball, plays hard," Clippers' guard J.J. Redick said of his game. "Does the things to win."
J.J.'s career started in a reserve role for the Orlando Magic where he gave the team firepower off the bench. During his tenure with Magic, he had made multiple appearances in the playoffs, including an appearance in the finals in 2008. Redick had made a name for himself as he was an asset to the squad and his contributions were immense year in and year out.
"I think the importance of valuing every possession is huge," Redick said of his playoff experiences. "And the importance of staying the course. Within a game you may get down fifteen to twenty points, you can still make a run. Within a series you may get down two one or three one. You can battle back."
As his stay in Orlando wound down, Redick became a starter, thus a more vital element of the team's accomplishments. Before the 2013 trade deadline, Redick was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Magic were in the midst of a horrid season. Fortunately for Redick, he found himself on another playoff team. Though the Bucks were ousted in the first round, Redick remained consistent with his participation in the playoffs, which had been a recurrent pilgrimage in Redick's career.
In the offseason, Redick was dealt from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Clippers, part of a three-team-deal that included Phoenix. Before the trade went down, Redick met with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who had been recently chosen. Whatever Rivers sold him, worked! The deal went through, and Redick signed a four-year contract worth seven million a year. After he had played his college ball under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, Redick was going to play under the heralded coach, Doc Rivers.
"Accountability," Redick said of the similarities of Doc Rivers and Mike Krzyzewski. "I think they are great game managers. They are great at preparing a game plan. They both use the F word on occasion."
Redick became a member of a team that had two star core players in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and he would complement them with outside shooting that the team had been lacking. The Clippers had made two consecutive playoff runs, but it was Redick who was added to provide the team's push over the top.
From the start of the season, J.J. fit like a glove in the team's offensive scheme. He was running off of screens and created constant movement that was a thorn in the side of the defenders. This proved to work well for Redick and the team, as he nailed an impressive number of his shots from ‘three-point-land. ‘
Not known as a lock down defender, Redick proved what a quality team defender he was, as he helped the Clips improve their horrid three-point defense from the past season. One of Redick's great attributes was the ability to give the team a boost in the first quarter of games; he had been one of the league's most efficient first quarter scorers in the league, and the Clippers welcomed his boost! It seemed as if he was the perfect starting shooting guard for the team.
""He could go nine for ten and he's pissed, Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers said of Redick's demeanor. " I've never seen a guy that is such a great shooter that is so hard on himself but it doesn't affect him, you know what I mean by that. Most guys when they are hard on themselves take themselves out of it. J.J.'s still hard on himself but he is going to shoot the next one. It's probably why he is so good. He's a competitive guy."
Despite the Clippers integration of a new coach and multiple new players, Redick and the team were hitting a stride. Things changed in late November during a game with the Sacramento Kings. Redick was pushed by the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins, which caused him to land awkwardly on his wrist. Suddenly, Redick was out with a fracture/torn right wrist tendon and it would sideline him for some time. Luckily for Redick he has able to able to continue cardio to stay in shape while he was recovering from his injury, yet he was not able practice with his deadly right shooting hand.
"It's really difficult to be injured, and it's hard to watch games, Redick said of watching his teammates when he was injured. "If a team plays bad there is a sense of guilt because you couldn't help them. If a team plays good there is a sense of envy because you want to be out there and part of it. So it is a lose, lose, either way."
When Redick was cleared to play in early January versus the Lakers, he had missed 21 games. The team had still been playing well, but the team's star point guard had been out with a shoulder injury. The return of Redick was a huge boost for the team, and in his second game against the Dallas Mavericks, Redick displayed his value to the team with a season high 31 points.
With Paul out of the line up, Redick was helping the team through a grueling part of a schedule until things changed. In a game in Toronto, Redick left the game with back injury, yet he returned to the game shortly after. As one of the toughest players around, Redick fought through the back for five more games before he and the Clippers realized that there was a problem.
It was apparent that Redick's injury was much more serious than they had thought. He was dealing with a bulging disk in his back that also affected the nerves. Redick was shut out of basketball activities without a timetable in regard to his return. Unlike his wrist injury, he was held hostage to his back, and unable to stay in shape as he had with the injury earlier in the season. This was also an injury that made him question if things would ever turn the corner.
"Especially the back injury. Just not even knowing if I was going to get back on the court," Redick said of his back injury. " There's some doubt that creeps in there unfortunately. I have a very positive disposition but doubt creeps in sometimes."
As for the team, the Clippers saw Blake Griffin blossom into one of the league's best players, and Chris Paul returned from his shoulder injury. Injuries still kept the team down, as Jamal Crawford went out with an intermittent calf injury. Regardless, the Clippership continued to sail, as the team continued to win and Redick held hopes that he could return to the team.
Redick was still sidelined with his back injury and watched from bench. He would continue to persevere and was slowly getting himself back on track. The first step in the right direction was Redick shooting; there were numerous practices and shoot-arounds where he had been seen practicing his shot. It was still vague, if and when he would return, but all signs pointed to Redick giving it a shot before contemplating surgery or being shut down for the season.
"There were a few days that I thought I wasn't gonna play again this season," Redick said.
The next big step for Redick was to receive clearance to practice. Practice gave Redick the opportunity to assess the condition of his back, and determine where he was in his rehab process. There were no setbacks with Redick's practices and it was commonly questioned when J.J. Redick would make his return for the playoff push. Would the return be sooner or later?
With the season winding down, and Redick had not played since early February; people wondered when he would give it a shot. One of the beauties of Redick's game too, is that he is easier than most players to reincorporate into a system, since he doesn't necessarily need the ball in his hands. The question was-if he geared up, would his back sustain the pounding on the court?
"It's been incredibly difficult," said of his injury issues. "I'm someone who loves to play basketball, so to have that taken away from me for a little more then half the season has been incredibly frustrating."
There was always doubt in regard to, if and when Redick would return and at last, he could put that to rest, and focus on his presence on the court. On April 3rd, against the Dallas Mavericks, J.J. Redick returned to action for the first time in nearly two months. Sure he had some expected rust, but it was apparent that he had beaten a horrific injury to help the team.
One game later, J.J. was inserted into the starting lineup versus the Lakers. Quickly, Redick demonstrated how crucial he is in the Clippers high-octane offense as a player that no one can emulate or duplicate.
Unlike playoff pushes in Redick's past seasons, this season has been a bit more of a mental and physical grind. Redick has gone the gauntlet and continued to remain strong on and off the court. Now he finds himself trying to help the Clippers make a monumental playoff run.
"If I have learned anything this year, it's just to cherish every game. I know that sounds stupid but I'm a very grateful person," Redick said. " When the season started this year, I know every time I got introduced in the starting lineup. I remember, I always thought to myself cherish this, you are in your eighth year, this is the first time you're a starter, cherish it. This is a chance to make a run with a great group of guys. So I'm gonna cherish this."