CHICAGO — Dwelling on the road not taken doesn’t get you where you want to go today. Neither does fretting about a crossroads yet to come.
Magic guard J.J. Redick is a self-professed planner. In fact he and his wife Chelsea both are that way – methodical, plotting their next move, reviewing their tracks. But they saw last season in Orlando with the Dwight Howard & Ringling Bros. Circus what can happen to one’s best-laid plans. So they swore it off a little.
“My wife and I spent the summer in New York City and when we got back to Orlando in September, we had a discussion,” Redick said after the Magic’s shootaround sessions Tuesday morning at United Center. “We really are focused on making the most out of every day.”
That means not obsessing over speculation that, after six full seasons in Orlando, Redick, 28, might be down to his final few months. He is something of a luxury for a rebuilding team such as the Magic, with both a $6.2 million salary on an expiring contract and skills as a shooter off the bench that might make him attractive in trade by the league’s February deadline.
Redick could wind up right where he is, helping the Magic and rookie coach Jacque Vaughn cobble together something upbeat out of the Howard ruins. Or he could find himself back with an elite team, a valuable pick-up playing all the way back to The Finals the way he and the Magic did in 2009.
First-year GM Rob Hennigan will be weighing the now against the later. Pondering that, for Redick, isn’t going to make a bit of difference. Unless it distracts him from the task at hand.
“I don’t know what my future is,” he said, “and I don’t know what this team is going to look like at the [trade] deadline or anything like that. I know that as long as I’m here – and I’ve told Rob this and I’ve told coach Vaughn this – I’m going to be a pro and do what I do every day.”
The last few days, actually, Redick has been doing more than that. In helping Orlando to its 2-0 start, he averaged 22.5 points and 6.0 assists, while hitting 16 of his 25 shots (64.0 percent) and 3 of 4 3-pointers. Not bad for a guy who never has averaged more than 2.5 assists per game.
Highest points per game, no starts
In fact, maybe more surprising than the Magic’s home victories over Denver and Phoenix to start 2012-13 has been Redick’s newfound appreciation of playmaking. He admitted to the Orlando Sentinel’s Brian Schmitz the other day that, “I can’t decide what I like more: an executed pocket pass that leads to a layup or dunk or a [sticking a 3-pointer]. Hmm. It would be the same for me.”
For the record, of Redick’s 12 assists, six have led to layups or dunks and three have led to 3-pointers for teammates. He is playing behind Arron Afflalo and, if he kept this level of performance up, he could wind up as a Sixth Man candidate. Unless he slots in as some other team’s starter or seventh or eighth man before March.
Vaughn, saying he brought a clean slate in for every Magic player when he got them on the court for the first time in October, said of Redick: “He’s just in tune with what we’re trying to do. His approach has been unbelievable at both ends of the floor. A great mark for our team is the approach you have to have on a given night, and he’s been a leader of that, for sure.”
And for now, it remains a “we” thing. The Magic’s stop in Chicago brought back memories of a time when Redick’s career might have gone a different way. He signed an offer sheet from the Bulls in the summer of 2010, only to have Orlando match it and keep him.
He realized then that the road not taken wouldn’t be a healthy place to plant himself mentally – Redick is, after all, a poetry buff and knows all about that Robert Frost piece.
“I try not to deal with hypotheticals,” he said, as he gazed around an empty United Center he nearly called home. “It was a great learning experience for me two [years] ago when I signed with the Bulls. It was going to be a chance where I would have an opportunity to earn a starting spot. When I came back to Orlando, I said, ‘I’m not going to think about being a Chicago Bull. I’m not going to spend the next two or three years thinking “What if?” ‘
“Conversely, I’m not thinking now, ‘Well, where am I going to be in March?’ My thought right now is, let’s play well in November.”
So far, pretty well. After the Bulls Tuesday in Chicago, the Magic have five of their next seven on the road. That’s the road Redick is on, the only one that matters for now.