Mike Krzyzewski

For Sixers' JJ Redick, leadership is a covert operation

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For Sixers' JJ Redick, leadership is a covert operation

You might remember JJ Redick as the obligatory Duke villain, the 3-making, tongue-wagging, crowd-baiting so-and-so who in Mike Krzyzewski’s eyes drew more flak from opposing fans than any player he has ever coached (including Christian Laettner).

Or maybe you don’t remember. It was a long time ago.

Nor do you likely recall that Redick spent his first two NBA seasons chained to Orlando’s bench, seemingly well on his way to fulfilling another cliché — that of the failed Duke pro (and nevermind the careers of Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, et al.).

More likely you see Redick as he is normally seen. As a coveted shooter and consummate pro. As a guy who is supremely fit and supremely confident. As a guy who follows through on his everyday obligations as surely as he does that lovely jumper. 

He’s with the Sixers now, of course, having signed a one-year, $23 million contract shortly after free agency opened in July. And even as he approaches his 12th season at age 33, his reinvention continues.

He is now JJ Redick, leader.

A bit of an oversimplification? Sure. The team has other guys to serve in that capacity, notably Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless  — and perhaps Emeka Okafor or Kris Humphries, should one of them stick (see story). But surely Redick will be among those providing ballast for a flighty young team. He will be the example Brett Brown can point to and say: This is how you take care of your body. Or: This is how you practice. Or: This is how you treat locker-room attendants or (fingers crossed) reporters.

The point being that leadership doesn’t have to be verbal; it can be a covert operation. Showing, not saying, is often as good a method as any.

“I don’t think you just show up,” Redick said Monday, “and just start talking to people — barking out orders and giving advice.”

Rather, he will pull guys off to the side, if the situation requires. And surely he understands others are more likely to listen if he continues to shoot the you-know-what out of the ball. He is 40th on the NBA’s all-time list in made 3-pointers (1,271) and 14th in 3-point percentage (.415) — sixth among active players — while averaging 11.9 points in his career, including 15.8 over the last four years with the Clippers.

Not only that, but he’s a good passer, and a better defender than most of us realize — not Kawhi Leonard, certainly, but not James Harden, either.

And should anybody really want to know, Redick does have an interesting story to tell, having gone from National Player of the Year his final season at Duke (2005-06) to deep sub his first two years with the Magic, to complementary piece on some strong Clippers' clubs.

Takes a pretty steady hand on the wheel to negotiate that many twists and turns.

“The thing about JJ,” Krzyzewski told CSNPhilly.com last month, “is that he has a mantra of always becoming — in other words, whatever he’s done, there’s the next step: 'I need to get better. I need to prove myself again.' ”

Redick has no idea why he is wired that way, only that he was never satisfied as different accolades came his way while he was growing up — as he was named a McDonald’s All-American, for instance, or was accorded one ranking or another by one recruiting service or another.

“I don’t know if it’s out of fear of failure or just that I enjoy new things,” he said, “but I’ve always sort of looked: What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?”

If ever he were tempted to rest on his laurels, he said, “I’ve had good enough people in my life to tell me, ‘Hey, you’re being a brat.’ … ‘Hey, you’re being an (idiot). Stop it.’ ” 

It is safe to say that Krzyzewski has been among those people. He and Redick are close — “amazingly close,” Coach K said — their relationship having taken root in 2000, when the legendary coach began recruiting Redick out of Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Va.

That Redick spent four years playing for the Blue Devils seems a rather quaint notion these days, but his body of work speaks for itself: He set the Atlantic Coast Conference scoring record (2,769 points) and made more 3-pointers than anyone else in NCAA history (457) — marks that have since been eclipsed — and had his No. 4 jersey retired.

Opposing fans were not impressed, showering upon him the sort of invective often reserved for high-profile Dookies. Think not only Laettner but Steve Wojciechowski. Or Greg Paulus. Or, currently, Grayson Allen.

“As a 33-year-old, there’s nothing that any human can say to me that hasn’t already been said,” Redick said. “There’s some sick (stuff) that’s been said to me. I’ve heard it all.”

He chose to fight ire with ire, adopting a strutting, smirking persona that only inflamed opposing fans that much more.

“You can either react (to the abuse) in one of two ways,” he said. “You can sort of go into a shell and be fearful, and I had teammates that did that, or you can sort of just embrace it and be like, ‘(Bleep) it. You say I’m that? I’ll be that.’ That’s what I did.”

The more a player like Redick uses the crowd as fuel, Krzyzewski said, the better — “because,” he said, “you’re not only singing your song at home, in front of a friendly crowd, you can sing your song in front of a very vocal crowd on the road. The main thing is that you have a great song to sing, and JJ did.”

Redick, drafted 11th overall by Orlando in 2006, received a comeuppance of sorts his first two NBA seasons, averaging 14.8 minutes in 42 games as a rookie and 8.1 in 34 his second year. 

“It was very humbling,” he said. “But it was also necessary. It was helpful.”

He admittedly didn’t always handle it well, especially that second season, when he played what he calls “the victim card.” Finally, though, it dawned on him that he wasn’t doing enough. While he had gone from round to ripped in college, he still wasn’t as fit as he needed to be.

Enter Joe Rogowski, then the Magic’s conditioning coach. He has vouched so often for Redick over the years that he jokingly refers to himself as the “JJ Whisperer,” but he whipped him into shape, redirected his career, changed his thinking to the point where he became “OCD about everything,” as Redick put it.

In his third season, he was a rotational piece for a team that reached the Finals. That was also the first of seven straight years that he improved upon his scoring average. 

In all, Redick spent six-plus years with the Magic, then part of a season with Milwaukee, before landing with the Clippers. He called his time in Los Angeles “basically the four best years of (his) career” on his podcast, “The Chronicles of Redick,” but the Clippers elected to move on after last season.

That led to a free-agent odyssey he chronicled in a short documentary, ironically entitled “The Process.” Toward the end, he was shown agonizing over a three-year offer from Houston, as well as the deal with the Sixers. Ultimately he decided Philly was a better fit, after being cajoled into a workout by Brown in the team’s facility.

In a blazer and slacks.

In the wee hours of July 1.

As Redick told Business Insider, Joel Embiid happened to be there, so they ran through some of the ways the two of them could complement each other. Brown said the other day the symbiosis between a shooter like Redick and a post threat like Embiid will be “an offense, all unto itself.” Redick did not disagree, and said he and Embiid have “a budding bromance” to boot.

But he’s not just here for on-court reasons. He’s also here to steady a young team. And to that end, he was asked what his 33-year-old self would say to the 21-year-old version.

“‘Shut up and listen, ’” Redick said.

He would never say that to anyone now. Rather, he would want his teammates to listen when he’s saying nothing at all.

It’s as good a way as any to lead.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski takes leave to have back surgery

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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski takes leave to have back surgery

DURHAM, N.C. -- Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is stepping away from the team to have lower back surgery.

The school announced Monday that the procedure is scheduled for Friday, with an anticipated recovery time of four weeks.

Krzyzewski will coach Wednesday night's game against Georgia Tech before handing off to associate head coach Jeff Capel for Saturday's home game against Boston College.

Krzyzewski, 69, will have a fragment of a herniated disk removed at Duke University Hospital. The school says Krzyzewski tried several treatment options during the past month before deciding on surgery.

Krzyzewski said in a statement that he consulted with the university's medical team and "together, we have determined that surgery is the best course of action at this time." He says the Blue Devils will "be in the capable hands" of Capel and assistants Nate James and Jon Scheyer.

"As soon as the doctors clear me to do so, I look forward to returning and giving our team 100 (percent) of my energy and attention, which is certainly something that they deserve," he said.

The winningest men's coach in Division I history had four surgeries during the offseason to replace his left knee, repair his left ankle and fix a hernia. He squeezed those procedures into a busy summer in which he also led the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.

"To be sure, the entire Duke community is supportive and eager to get Mike back as soon as possible," Duke athletic director Kevin White said. "His health is paramount, and he will get the best possible care in the world by the Duke medical team. With the proper recovery time, we look forward to Mike doing what he does best -- leading and teaching -- very soon."

Capel -- a former Duke guard who went 175-110 in nine years coaching at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma -- previously took over for Krzyzewski when he missed a trip to Georgia Tech last February because of dehydration and high blood pressure.

That victory in Atlanta marked the first time Krzyzewski did not travel with his team since the 1994-95 season, when he missed the final 19 games due to back surgery and exhaustion. Those Blue Devils went 4-15 during that span and became the last Duke team to miss the NCAA Tournament.

Monday's announcement marks the latest twist in an already drama-filled season for a team voted No. 1 in the preseason on the strength of a lineup led by preseason AP All-American guard Grayson Allen and four immediate-impact freshmen.

On Saturday, the Blue Devils (12-2) were routed at Virginia Tech in the first game of Allen's indefinite suspension for tripping yet another opponent . And those freshmen -- Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Frank Jackson -- have played in the same game only three times because of various injuries.

The Blue Devils dropped three spots to No. 8 -- their lowest ranking of the season -- in the AP Top 25 released Monday.

Carmelo Anthony, U.S. men's hoops survive test from Australia

Carmelo Anthony, U.S. men's hoops survive test from Australia

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The blowouts are over. The Olympics are underway.

After nothing but pushovers this summer, the U.S. men's basketball team faced someone who pushed back.

"This is the real world now and that's good for us," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Finally tested, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving had the answers.

Anthony scored 31 points on the night he became the U.S. men's Olympic career scoring leader, combining with Irving for all the Americans' baskets in the fourth quarter of a 98-88 victory over Australia on Wednesday night.

Irving -- born in Australia -- added 19 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:35 left after Australia had closed within four.

A team that won its first two games by a combined 101 points could never get a comfortable lead -- and for a while couldn't get one at all. The Australians, with big bodies inside, quality point guards to counter the American pressure and a wealth of NBA championship experience, stood toe to toe with the team that had blown them out of the last two Olympics in the quarterfinals.

But Anthony, the first male to play in four Olympics, steadied the Americans in the first competitive game most of this new team had ever experienced.

"We kind of expected a game like this, a physical game, a grind-out game from playing against Australia over the past couple years," Anthony said, "and going into tonight we knew it was going to come down to the end of the game where we were really going to have to buckle down and focus in and make plays down the stretch."

Kevin Durant capped off the scoring with two free throws, making him the only other player than Irving or Anthony to score in the period.

The Americans, who had barely broken a sweat in Brazil, trailed early in the fourth quarter before Anthony hit a flurry of 3-pointers to put the Americans on top.

Patty Mills, the tournament scoring leader, had 30 points for Australia.

After five easy exhibitions preceding routs of China and Venezuela to open the tournament, the Americans trailed 72-70 with about 9 minutes left. Anthony scored to tie it, hit a 3-pointer to give the Americans the lead for good, and then hit a couple more 3s that pushed it to 83-76.

The team staying on a luxury cruise ship could never relax until scoring the final five points in the last 27 seconds on free throws, with Irving hitting the first three.

The Americans, so carefree in their opener that reserves DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler played rock, paper, scissors to determine who would shoot a free throw, realized they were in a fight in this one.

"It got real," Paul George said. "It definitely got real."

An enraged Krzyzewski screamed at an official after Andrew Bogut's hard foul on Irving just in front of the U.S. bench in the third quarter, his face looking as red as the shirts the coaching staff wore.

Bogut finished with 15 points for the Australians, who have never won a medal but four of their players own NBA rings. They nearly became the first team to knock off the Americans in the Olympics since Krzyzewski took over in 2005.

"We have a pretty gritty group that's pretty tough and we battled all night," Bogut said.

Australia had opened the Olympics with impressive victories over France and Serbia, both ranked among the top six in the world. Then the Aussies gave the team ranked No. 1 all it could handle.

The Americans clinched a spot in the medal round, though that was never going to be in doubt.

This game, though, was.

It was the second straight game the Americans were tied after one quarter. They quickly blew away Venezuela after it was 18-all, but the only second-quarter surge in this one was made by Australians.

They used a 15-3 burst to make it 46-39, and Krzyzewski actually needed a timeout to calm his team that by then can usually make its postgame plans.

Anthony moved past LeBron James as the U.S. career leader in Olympic scoring and did it quickly, using a hot start to make up the 11-point advantage James had entering the game.

Irving once considered playing for Australia, where he was born while his father was playing there professionally. He exchanged a pregame hug with Matthew Dellavedova, his former backup in Cleveland, but things didn't stay nice for long.

The Aussies hit hard and the Americans hit back, with George getting a technical foul for a shot at Dellavedova.

It was a welcome test for the Americans, who have been so dominant under Krzyzewski that it sometimes seems the U.S. players are the only ones who don't make a gold medal sound assured.

They've said it won't come easily.

Now they've finally had a game that wasn't.