Hard-working Redd rises in the ranks
It seems Michael Redd has never met a challenge he hasn't liked. Ever since entering the NBA three years ago, Redd has consistently proved the skeptics, not to mention the so-called basketball mavens, wrong.
Like when he was a pedestrian second-round selection in the 2000 NBA Draft. According to many experts, Redd had about as much of a chance of making the Milwaukee Bucks' roster as a snowball surviving in hell. Redd was supposedly a step slow. He was supposedly a suspect perimeter shooter. And he was supposedly too raw to find a spot on a veteran-laden Bucks' team that already had a plethora of shooting guards in Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Lindsey Hunter and Tim Thomas. But Redd beat the odds. He made the 12-man roster.
Then, after making the Bucks' roster, Redd wasn't supposedly going to get any playing time. And he didn't — at least as a rookie. Redd played in a meager six games for only 35 minutes.
But in his second pro season, Redd started to prove he belonged. He appeared in 67 games and raised eyebrows throughout the league when he made an NBA record-setting eight three-pointers in a quarter against Houston. Redd finished that season averaging a solid 11.4 points and proceeded to pump that number up to 15.1 last season. That really raised eyebrows. Redd was rewarded for his efforts by finishing second to Sacramento's Bobby Jackson in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Still, there were skeptics. Yes, Redd was one of the best reserves in the league, but he still wasn't a starter. And he wasn't going to be one any time soon. The Bucks, after all, still had Cassell. And they had Gary Payton and Desmond Mason, both acquired in a blockbuster trade with Seattle last February. And they had the ever-versatile Thomas. Redd didn't care.
"After last season, I went home and worked out every day,'' said the personable Redd, a native of Columbus, Ohio. "I'd stay in the gym four or five hours a day. "Last year, I had a tremendous year in some people's eyes. But, to me, it was another year. I worked so hard this summer. I wasn't satisfied with what I did last year.''
When Redd reported to training camp in October, the Bucks' backcourt logjam had been eased. Payton bolted via free agency and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Cassell was dealt to Minnesota. But Redd wasn't a projected starter. Mason was. Or so everybody thought, especially after he had started 25 regular-season games and all six playoff games against New Jersey last season for the Bucks.
While Mason had played small forward for then Bucks coach George Karl, new Bucks coach Terry Porter contended Mason's best position was shooting guard. Bucks management was so enamored with Mason that they signed him to a lucrative three-year, $23 million contract extension in preseason.
Again, Redd didn't care. He continued to work diligently, saying he would put forth his best effort regardless of whether he was a starter or a backup. His efforts paid off. Porter made Redd his starting shooting guard and made Mason his top reserve. So far, Redd has made Porter's decision look brilliant. Redd has unequivocally been the single-biggest reason for the Bucks' surprisingly good early-season play.
The Bucks, tabbed as the worst team in the Eastern Conference and second-worst in the entire league in a preseason Sports Illustrated story, have already beaten Indiana and have taken the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves to the limit. They have been one of the NBA's surprise teams, in large measure, because of Redd. The 6-foot-6 Redd is averaging 21.5 points a game. That not only tops all Bucks' scorers but ranks him 13th in the NBA. Redd has had four games in which he has totaled 25 points or more. If that isn't impressive enough, Redd is shooting a blistering 90.2 percent from the free-throw line, eighth-best in the NBA. Redd has also done a commendable job on defense. Not afraid to mix it up inside, Redd is averaging 6.3 rebounds.
"I think he's done a great job up to this point,'' Porter said. "He can shoot the lights out and he's really embraced the defensive things we've tried to implement here. He's been really good. He's done everything we've asked for him to do.''
While Redd has already come a long way in a such a short amount of time as a pro, he isn't content. Redd is constantly striving to improve and coming up with new goals. His new one is to become an All-Star. That supposedly won't happen any time soon, either. The Eastern Conference is saturated with blue-chip shooting guards i.e. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, New York's Allan Houston, Orlando's Tracy McGrady and Toronto's Vince Carter. But the 24-year-old Redd firmly believes he'll eventually attain his latest goal by sticking to his tried and true formula of hard work.
"I want to get better; that should be the goal of every NBA player,'' Redd said. "But my goal is to be one of the best guards in the league. Lord willing, and if I keep working hard, I can do it.
"For me, it's all about basketball. I have a real love and passion for the game. That's what it's all about. You have to love what you do, and I do.''
Porter thinks the sky's the limit for his talented young guard and says he wouldn't at all be surprised to see Redd donning an All-Star jersey some day.
"I think Michael is a guy who is very determined and driven to get the best out of his abilities,'' Porter said. "What I have seen so far is a very hard-working kid who has a tremendous amount of pride in his ability and what he wants out of his career. "Can he be an All-Star? He's playing like one right now, isn't he?''
He is indeed.
Gery Woelfel covers the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA for The Racine (Wis.) Journal Times
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