Here’s a fun fact for you: Tiki Barber and J.J. Redick went to the same high school. Barber, 39, and Redick, 30, were not classmates, of course, but they are both products of Cave Spring High in Roanoke, Virginia.
Thus, it was only fitting that Barber ask the first question of Redick’s segment on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney on Friday, one Knight to another.
Barber asked Redick for a state-of-the-union assessment of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-21), who have had an up-and-down season. The Clippers won six straight games in late January, opened February with four straight losses, followed that with four straight wins and have now dropped back-to-back games against Memphis and at Houston by a combined eight points.
What do we make of the Clippers at this point, especially with the playoffs approaching?
“Well, first of all, I think we’ve had a good season,” Redick said. “We’ve been a little inconsistent, but our record against our conference – our record against the top six in the West – is very good. Our advanced stats are all very good. We have a chance to make a run in the playoffs. We obviously need our best player (Blake Griffin) to be healthy, and as far as I know – from talking to him and talking to the trainers – he’s on schedule to return in the next couple weeks, and that can’t come soon enough. We need him back.”
Griffin had surgery Feb. 9 to remove a staph infection from his right elbow. He is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game in what has been an odd NBA season. A lot of analysts would have told you in the preseason that the top three teams in the West would be the Clippers, Spurs and Thunder – in some order. Instead, those are the sixth through eighth seeds, respectively, with the Warriors, Grizzlies and Rockets leading the pack.
Redick, however, isn’t paying too much attention to playoff seeding. He knows that anybody who makes the playoffs in the West is going to have a chance to reach the Finals.
“In terms of seeding and home-court advantage, I think the biggest thing for all teams, really, is just going to be match-ups,” he said. “OKC, I don’t know where they’re going to end up. They could be 8, could be 6, could be 5 – they could get extremely hot like they did last year. So whoever gets them in the first round is going to have a tough match-up, especially when they’re fully healthy.
“The Spurs, as we know, are defending champs,” Redick continued. “If they end up in the 7-spot and play Memphis, that’s going to be a tough match-up. So I think regardless of where we’re seeded, I think the important thing in that first round is being matched up against a team that we feel we can compete with and beat.”
Redick has played a pivotal role in the Clippers’ success this season, averaging 14.6 points per game and shooting a career-best 43.2 percent from three-point range. Whether it’s Redick, Kyle Korver of the “Splash Brothers” in Golden State, it appears there are a lot of sharpshooters in the NBA this season – and almost all of them play on good teams.
“The NBA has placed a greater emphasis on skill as I’ve kind of progressed in the league,” Redick said. “Back when I was drafted in 2006, everybody talked about length and athleticism, and I think the NBA is going back a little bit towards skill. I think the NBA is gong back to needing guys who can space the floor and shoot the ball.
Defenses – (such as Tom) Thibodeau’s defense that he had in Boston and now Chicago – kind of revolutionized the defensive concepts of the NBA. Everybody kind of loads up to their strong side, so you need those weak-side shooters to space the floor.”
Looking back at 2006, there were a lot of people who doubted whether Redick could thrive – or even survive – in the NBA. As the former Duke star attested, much of the draft chatter centered on length and athleticism – two things Redick isn’t exactly known for.
Nevertheless, he’s averaged double figures for the last five seasons. In fact, his three best scoring seasons have come in the last three years.
Has Redick silenced the critics who weren’t sure whether his game would translate to the NBA almost a decade ago?
“I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care,” Redick said in a carefree tone. “I think when you’re younger and you’re 18 years old, you maybe pay attention to people that criticize you or doubt you. But around the time I was 22 or 23 years old, I just had a different mindset about life. I’m not motivated by negativity. I think if you’re ever motivated by your critics, you’re being motivated from a negative place. I’m motivated by what I want to do for myself, what I want to do for my family, the standard I want to set for myself, the professional I want to be – those are the things that motivate me. Not because some guy on a blog said I can’t play basketball.”