New Orleans free-agent signing JJ Redick has played for four previous teams during his 13-year NBA career, but he first established himself as a major contributor in Orlando, where he appeared in a total of 396 regular season contests and 44 playoff games. He was part of consecutive Magic teams that went deep in the postseason, including capturing the Eastern Conference title in ’09 and reaching the East finals the following year. To learn more about the Pelicans’ new shooting guard, we caught up with Orlando TV sideline reporter Dante Marchitelli, who covered Redick during the player’s tenure in Central Florida:
Pelicans.com: Redick has played for five NBA teams, but his longest stint among those clubs was at the start of his pro career in Orlando, where he spent six-plus seasons and seemed to make major improvements from year to year. What were the main reasons behind his leap from a fringe rotation player to becoming a key piece?
Marchitelli: This was simply due to the work he put in behind the scenes. By the time JJ left Orlando he had solidified himself as the hardest worker on the team. First one into the gym, last guy to leave. He spent countless hours honing his craft. He learned how to take care of his body, what to eat and he developed a routine. JJ is religious about his gameday and off day routines and all of those factors, coupled with the experience he eventually got here in Orlando, helped him tremendously. Nothing was given to JJ, which I think was hard at first. He had to work harder than everyone else on the team, just to get a few minutes of playing time initially… but all that work eventually paid off and you won’t find anyone in this league that works harder than JJ.
Pelicans.com: There has been considerable discussion this summer about Redick, 35, being able to serve as a mentor for New Orleans, which got much younger roster-wise in the offseason. What was he like as a teammate with Orlando?
Marchitelli: If you talk to all of his former Magic teammates, they’ll tell you he was easily one of their favorites. You could always count on him to make the right read, know where to be for his teammates, guide on the floor and knock down open shots. His ability to shoot opened up so many things for his teammates. But his wisdom and maturity off the floor was so valuable to the younger guys. How to present yourself, how to be smart with your money, checking in on guys making sure they’re comfortable and most importantly being a guy that his teammates trusted and respected. He can shoot it to you straight and he truly cares for his teammates.
Pelicans.com: There aren’t many guards in their mid-30s still performing at a high level in the NBA. What factors do you think have helped him extend his career and remain effective?
Marchitelli: Somewhere along the way here in Orlando, JJ learned how to take care of himself and preserve himself in this league. He added strength early on which certainly helps with the wear and tear of an NBA season, battling screens etc. But he became devoted to his diet and anything that could assist with recovery, cold plunge, stretching, sleep, etc. He had the foresight years ago that if he wanted to play a long time in this league, he had to take care of himself and he committed to it… we continue to see the benefits of that.
Pelicans.com: Redick is joining a team that now has a whopping five Duke University players (Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Frank Jackson, Jahlil Okafor are the others). How much of an influence for him is his Duke background, as well as the rarity of having played four years there?
Marchitelli: JJ loved his time at Duke! He can’t say enough positive things about Coach K, his philosophy, his knowledge of the game and how he treated himself and other players at that school. It’s called the “brotherhood” for a reason. It’s important to that program that former players have relationships with the University and he is friends with many former players. Josh McRoberts lived with him when he played for the Magic, he became close with Mike Dunleavy and there are countless others that he’s close with to this day. I don’t see the amount of Duke players on a team having a bearing on where he chooses to sign, but the fact that there are four other Duke players in New Orleans certainly doesn’t hurt. He’s a proud Blue Devil and he’s very proud of the work he put in to become the all-time leading scorer in ACC history at the time he graduated.
Pelicans.com: We’ve seen in recent years that he has branched out into podcasting and seems to be poised for a potential post-playing career in sports media. Based on what you know about him, why has he come across so well in this platform?
Marchitelli: I think this is simple… JJ is well-connected and he’s passionate about a number of topics: music, fashion, food, fitness, etc. He’s been a celebrity for almost 20 years now going back to his time at Duke and the fact he’s lived in Los Angeles and Brooklyn for the last six or seven has opened a number of doors. His platform affords him the opportunity to meet a number of influential people, and he has something in common with almost everyone. While most of us would only be comfortable with a sports-themed podcast, his ability to talk food, music, movies and fashion (among other things) with anyone separates him from the rest. He also gives you so much insight into his life, people are drawn to him. What I think fans appreciate the most about JJ, as do I, is the fact he’s a straight shooter. What you see and hear is the real article, and when you feel someone in that position is being honest with you it makes for compelling content.
Pelicans.com: What’s one thing even longtime NBA fans might not know about Redick?
Marchitelli: Extreme foodie! Knows as much as anyone about the top restaurants in this country and what they serve. Also, he never tried coffee till a few years into his NBA career.