It’s OK to admit your dreams.
When the Sixers said at the beginning of the summer that they were going star hunting, fans across the area let their imaginations run wild.
Thoughts of future Sixers such as LeBron James breezing down the court for one of his patented power slams, Paul George shaking a defender from the triple-threat position for a pull-up jumper or Kawhi Leonard swiping a steal for an easy flush were at an all-time high.
None of those scenarios played out, but that ultimately allowed the team to avoid a nightmare: losing JJ Redick in free agency.
Redick has stated several times he was close to joining the Indiana Pacers during the offseason before the Sixers made the move to re-sign him. That thought should have put fear into the organization because the veteran sharpshooter really makes the Sixers tick.
If last season’s career-best scoring effort and lofty three-point shooting weren’t enough evidence (17.1 points per game/42.0 percent), look no further than Friday’s performance in the Sixers’ 120-114 win over the Mavericks in matchup No. 1 of the NBA China Games. Redick was literally a perfect 10 as he scorched the Mavs for a game-high 28 points on a 10 for 10 shooting (7 for 7 on three-pointers).
But it wasn’t just Redick’s own production that made the difference. His movement without the ball stretched the Mavs’ defense and in turn opened up plenty of space for teammates like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to operate as the Sixers stormed back from a double-digit deficit to claim the victory.
“That is an elite JJ Redick performance even by his standard,” head coach Brett Brown said to reporters in Shanghai.
What’s also been at an elite level since he walked through the door is Redick’s leadership. The 34-year-old has somehow found a way to serve as a mentor to virtually every Sixers youngster since Day 1.
So far this preseason, he’s taken a major role in helping develop rookie Landry Shamet. All the while, Redick has been relegated to a seat on the bench himself so a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz can run with the starters.
Pretty selfless for a guy that has started his last 335 of 336 regular-season games played over the past five seasons.
“He’s been amazing,” Embiid said. “He’s a scorer. He’s the best shooter I’ve ever played with.
“At the beginning, that’s an adjustment. That felt weird to me because we had the best starting five last year, but he’s bought in. He’s doing a great job.”
“Him coming off the bench where he’s lightning in a bottle gives us a spark,” Brown said. “There’s another additional benefit of what we experienced tonight. He shot it well and we really needed that firepower coming off the bench.”