While the Miami Heat were busy courting three of the biggest superstars on the planet and overhauling the future of their franchise, the other professional basketball team in Florida was content merely to keep one of its own.
The biggest free-agent pickup of this month by the Orlando Magic was not LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. He wasn't a max salary player, he wasn't an All-Star and in fact, he wasn't even a regular starter in this league.
He was J.J. Redick.
Redick went No. 11 overall in the 2006 draft to the Magic, and he's been working like a dog ever since to prove that he belongs. After four years of thanklessly coming off the bench every night, hitting countless big shots and lighting a fire under Orlando's second unit, Redick hit restricted free agency this summer, and he was eager to cash in.
A superstar throughout his four years at Duke, winning both Naismith and Wooden awards as the nation's best collegiate player, Redick was a sure thing coming into the NBA. The Magic knew what they'd get — a fast learner, a hard worker, and one of the best pure shooters on the face of the earth. Redick didn't disappoint — four years later, he's got career percentages of 42.3 percent from the field, 39.2 percent from 3-point range and 86.3 percent from the free-throw line. He's an unheralded star in the NBA as a bench scoring dynamo.
As if there was any doubt, the market for Redick this month was competitive. The Chicago Bulls, patching things up in the wake of the LeBron James sweepstakes and looking for a new two-guard to replace the departed Kirk Hinrich, came calling. Their offer was a big one: three years, $19 million.
The Bulls made their pitch on Friday, July 9. The Magic spent nearly a week deliberating their decision — to match Chicago's offer and keep Redick in Orlando, or to balk at the hefty price and let him walk.
Redick, being a modest bench player and a superb outside shooter, fits best as a role player on a good team. He doesn't want all the attention in the world, and he doesn't want the best player on the other team guarding him every night — he wants to sneak in under the radar and knock down shots when no one's looking. Both teams were a good fit. Neither Orlando nor Chicago would have made Redick the center of attention. Both would give him a chance to thrive.
But when the Magic ultimately pulled the trigger Friday and matched the Bulls' offer sheet, keeping Redick in central Florida through 2013, it gave the 26-year-old shooting guard a chance to finish what he started in Orlando. He's been working hard for the last four years to improve not only himself, but the Magic, and it wasn't time for him to bail out just yet.
Redick hasn't always been the most loyal guy in town. Two years ago, when he was struggling to find his identity and relegated to the end of the bench, playing just 8.1 minutes per game, he asked the Magic for either more playing time or a trade. His time as a serious contributor in Orlando almost ended before it started.
But Redick persevered in Orlando, and he became a key contributor for a Magic team that won the Eastern Conference in 2009 and nearly won it again in 2010. In the Eastern Conference finals this spring, when the Magic went down swinging in six games against the Celtics, there were times when Redick looked like the best player on the floor in an Orlando uniform.
Redick has become a big part of the Orlando Magic's present and future, and he's only going to get bigger. Matt Barnes just made the decision to head north to Toronto, and Vince Carter has just a year left. Before you know it, Redick could be starting every night and stepping into a leadership role. His continued improvement means a lot to an Orlando team that remains a key contender in the Eastern Conference.
While one Floridian NBA team is turning the world upside down, the other just keeps developing stand-up guys like Redick and grooming them for what lies ahead. The Magic can now look forward to three more years with Redick hitting big shots and doing his part to make them better.