Rough season for NBA rookie

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2007

By Travis Reed

Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — J.J. Redick no longer is the go-to guy. He’s not even the guy behind the guy, or the guy behind him.

“I’m the 14th guy on this team, 15th guy,” the Orlando Magic rookie said after his career-best NBA night — nine points on 2-for-3 shooting in a recent win against the Miami Heat.

That would have been a subpar first half for Redick about this time last year, when he averaged 27 points a game at Duke on his way to becoming a repeat All-American and AP Player of the Year.

Once an immensely popular and reviled figure, Redick now endures a new phenomenon: irrelevance.

The Magic has played more than 30 games this year, and the rookie has appeared in just eight of them for a total of 95 minutes. That’s far less than anyone else on the team now that the Magic sent its other rookie, James Augustine, to the NBA Developmental League.

Though Redick has suited up for only about half of Orlando’s games, he’s tried to keep a sense of humor about it.

“To really get a feel for things, you’ve got to get some game experience,” Redick said. “That’s what, 50 minutes on the year for me? Hopefully I’ll tip 100 soon. They’re still paying me.”

Magic coach Brian Hill said Redick’s playing time has nothing to do with the No. 11 draft pick’s skills and everything to do with the players ahead of him. The Magic lead the Southeast Division, using a physical roster with a strong emphasis on defense. Redick is 6-foot-4, 190 pounds and has never been lauded for his defensive abilities.

The Magic could use Redick’s help from the 3-point and free-throw lines. Orlando is among the league’s worst in both categories, and Redick is the all-time college 3-point leader and second-best NCAA free-throw shooter in history.

“I know what I do every day in practice,” Redick said. “So, as far as confidence, I don’t feel like it’s dwindled at all. There’s a comfort that’s different in the NBA game than there is in the college game. I feel more comfortable every time I’m out there.”

Redick was limited this summer and fall with a herniated disc that kept him out of rookie camp and a foot injury during the preseason. He finished the exhibition season with no points on 0-for-3 shooting and didn’t make his Magic debut until Orlando’s 14th game.

The Magic have said all along they like Redick’s toughness, intensity and swagger, and Hill insists there’s a place on the team for him. He also isn’t worried about the rookie’s mentality despite sitting at the end of the bench all season.

“I don’t think J.J. has ever lacked confidence,” Hill said with a smile.