J.J. Redick receives warm welcome in Orlando

In his first return to Orlando since being traded to the Bucks, J.J. Redick received a warm welcome.

ORLANDO, Fla. — When Dwight Howard returned here last month for the first time as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, he was called all sorts of unsavory things.

When J.J. Redick returned Wednesday night for the first time as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, he called a taxi.

“I missed the first bus, so I had to catch a cab over and didn’t know where to go,” he said in a crowded Amway Center hallway about 90 minutes before tipoff.

Not a whole lot else went as planned for Redick and the playoff-bound Bucks, as the Magic, winners of just one of their previous 14 games, jumped out to a 14-point lead after one quarter and eventually pulled out a 113-103 victory in overtime. But during the first timeout, a video honoring Redick’s six-plus seasons with Orlando before getting traded Feb. 21 to the Bucks generated a feeling of genuine warmth.

It started out low, beginning with NBA commissioner David Stern’s announcement of the Magic taking Redick with the 11th pick in the 2006 draft, and continued to grow. Within moments, fans were on their feet and making enough noise to drown out the narration.

That was only the most public display of affection toward Redick, who called the tribute “very humbling.” Earlier, former teammates Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic had spoken of how their arrival as unproven players was made smoother by Redick’s example of how to prepare for games.

“I’m not a superstar, obviously,” Redick said. “That won’t be my legacy of my time here in Orlando. But I would like to think that my legacy is someone who played hard all the time, worked hard and was a true professional. So for them to say that definitely means a lot to me.”

Now it’s Redick who’s going through a transitional period. In 24 games with the Bucks, his shooting percentages from 3-point range and overall are down from what they were with the Magic. At best, he’s a distant third option behind starting guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis on a team expected to be little more than first-round fodder for the Miami Heat.

Jennings went out with a sore left Achilles during a first quarter that also saw center Larry Sanders, the league’s second-best shot-blocker, fall hard on his lower back after being fouled by Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson.

“You gain a level of comfort and familiarity and trust with certain players,” said Redick, who finished with 16 points in a season-high 42 minutes on 6-of-16 shooting. “You have training camp together, and you bond and get to know the coaches. It seems like the last six weeks have been pretty hectic.”

“He hasn’t been shooting the ball as well as he would like,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “But part of that is adjusting to a new team with new players, and you’ve got to get familiar with your teammates.”

Aside from when he scored 20 points April 1 in a win over Charlotte, Redick hasn’t turned in anything resembling a breakout performance. While he accounted for six of the Bucks’ eight overtime points, he was also soundly beaten on defense on a basket by Doron Lamb that gave the Magic a 106-99 lead with 1:20 to go.

It wasn’t surprising that the Magic got large contributions from Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih, although Harris’ final line of 30 points and 19 rebounds surpassed all expectations. But Lamb had been the forgotten acquisition from the Bucks until he knocked down four 3-pointers, which were three more than Redick made, in a 16-point showing off the bench.

Harris (20) and Lamb (21) are youngsters, and Redick will turn 29 in June and is in the final year of his contract. He has no regrets about ending up in a far different climate (“Milwaukee has been a very enjoyable city,” he said), but how could the prospect of the Bucks finishing below the .500 mark and getting swept by the Heat not leave him feeling cold when it’s time to test the free-agent market?     

“Sometimes the money is so different between offers that you go with the money and secure yourself and your family’s financial future,” he said. “But there are other factors in play for sure.”

Redick, unlike Howard, will be greeted with cheers for as long as he returns to Orlando. The next time, however, it might well be with someone other than the Bucks.

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