HOUSTON -- When Doc Rivers became the head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers almost five months ago, there were a handful of players he targeted.
It was a realistic list of available role players who would fit his system and could be acquired through free agency or a sign-and-trade deal since the Clippers were already over the salary cap.
The name at the top of that list was J.J. Redick.
“He’s a good fit for this team,” Rivers said. “Sometimes fits are very important, especially with J.J. We’re trying to take advantage of what he does. I have a pretty good feel of him, having had a son go to Duke and having played the Orlando Magic and J.J. in the playoffs with the Celtics. You kind of knew he would be a pretty good fit. We tried a couple times [to get him] in Boston. He didn’t play a lot his first year and I like the way he played. He fits really good teams with his movement.”
After failing to sign him in the past, Rivers won over Redick during a dinner the two had before the start of free agency, where Rivers outlined how he envisioned Redick fitting into his system and with the Clippers. It was everything Redick was looking for: a big market, an established coach, a championship contender and, for the first time in his career, a starting role.
“I’ve always thought he would start,” Rivers said. “Stan [Van Gundy] loved him and I’m a big Stan fan so I go to watch that action. All I knew is when we played them we didn’t like when he came into the game. On our team with him and Jamal [Crawford], those minutes are split but it’s really good for 48 minutes. You have J.J. killing people off of screens and Jamal coming out through movement and isos. That’s 48 minutes at the 2-guard spot of pretty good basketball.”
Movement and energy are always talked about whenever Rivers discusses Redick. He is constantly in motion on the court, which is a big reason why he fits Rivers’ system so well and also why he is averaging 16.8 points per game and hitting over 35 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“I’ve always been a guy who bases his game on movement and moving without the ball,” Redick said. “Doc has a saying that ‘energy finds the ball, energy finds scoring, energy finds assists.’ You play with energy and things tend to work out.”
No one on the Clippers has known Redick longer than Chris Paul. The two battled in college when Redick was at Duke and Paul was at Wake Forrest. Paul often teases Redick about those days, but the reasons he hated playing him in college are the same reasons he’s happy to be starting alongside him now.
“I tell him all the time when we were in college, Duke had one play,” Paul said. “They ran floppy and he just ran and ran until he got an open 3. What goes without saying is how he puts the ball on the floor and finds the open man and makes the right play. Some guys that can shoot just figure every time they’re open, they have to shoot it. He plays the right way and can handle the ball. It’s fun to play that way. I tell him every time he shoots it; I expect it to go in. I get mad when he misses. It’s a good feeling.”
The perception of Redick as nothing more than a pure shooter is understandable. That’s what he was known for in college and it's a big reason for his success in the NBA, but that’s not entirely why Rivers pushed for the Clippers to sign him to a four-year, $27 million contract after he was included in a three-team trade that sent Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to Phoenix and also brought Jared Dudley to the Clippers.
“Probably at Duke that’s what he was because he had to be, but with us he creates a lot,” Rivers said. “He’s a terrific pick-and-roll player and we put him in those positions a lot.”
Redick is usually the last player on the practice court for the Clippers, working on his shooting long after the rest of the team is done. While Redick might be a more complete player than he gets credit for, his shooting ability is still something his teammates marvel at.
“The guy can shoot the basketball, it’s unbelievable,” Blake Griffin said. “The best part about playing with him is that he never stops moving, cutting and running off screens. He’s a great fit for us, not just because he gives us another scorer, but he allows for guys to space the floor.”
The additions of Redick and Dudley have helped the Clippers space the floor, which has created more opportunities for Paul in the open court and Griffin in the frontcourt. They're far from a finished product yet, but the Clippers are leading the league in scoring with Paul and Griffin on pace for career seasons.
“Our shooting ability creates spacing and allows Chris to operate out of pick-and-rolls which is what we want,” Redick said. “We want Chris in as many pick-and-rolls as possible. The more space we have, the more successful he’s going to be in either scoring or finding the right man. … The open spots evolve throughout the season and you have to make adjustments, but as long as we have spacing and move the ball we’ll be fine.”