ORLANDO, Fla. — The only place J.J. Redick is heading is to the bank.
In a move that highlights his remarkable NBA turnaround, the same Orlando Magic team that once benched Redick, shelled out $19 million Friday to retain the shooting guard. They matched a three-year offer sheet that the Chicago Bulls made for Redick last week that could cost Orlando much more.
The decision drives the Magic deeper into the luxury tax and gives them one of the NBA’s highest payrolls at about $93 million next season. The move keeps Orlando’s roster mostly intact as the Magic hope continuity will overcome Miami’s All-Star trio and Boston’s Big Three in the Eastern Conference.
“When it came down to it, when we’re talking about what we’re trying to do here, it came down for me to pedigree, DNA, things that most people don’t think about,” Orlando general manager Otis Smith said. “It was less about the money for me, being the basketball guy, and more about keeping a guy around that we’ve had in our organization for the past four years.”
The decision was ultimately made by ownership.
Because Redick was a restricted free agent, Orlando had seven days to match the contract. Billionaire owner Rich DeVos and team president Bob Vander Weide took all seven days to make the move that nearly doubles Redick’s salary from last season.
Teams have to pay a dollar for every dollar they are over the luxury tax, which the league set at $70.3 million for next season. The tax hit is based on the roster at the end of the season, meaning it’s likely the Magic could make trades before then to lessen the financial burden.
Orlando should find relief in a new downtown arena that opens this year and creates new revenue streams. Smith also believes a roster that remains one of the deepest in the league is attractive for potential moves and doesn’t mortgage the Magic’s future.
“The fact that we have players that other teams want makes you pretty flexible,” Smith said. “Is it possible to give out contracts and move a little bit less money? Sure. My thing is you don’t want to take a step back with talent.”
At the very least, keeping Redick assures that.
The former Duke standout was the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He struggled early in his NBA career but has become a significant contributor for the Magic.
So much so that Smith decided that Redick and recently signed small forward Quentin Richardson had more value than Matt Barnes, who became a free agent after one season with Orlando. Smith said he never offered Barnes a deal and all but ruled out the small forward returning next season.
“It really came down to out of those three, which of the two do we bring in?” Smith said. “We like what Matt brought to the table, but sometimes you have to make decisions that’s best for your club long-term.”
Now Redick is a part of those plans.
He might also be a future starter after Vince Carter becomes a free agent next summer. Redick, who was vacationing in Europe and not immediately available for comment, was told of the decision Thursday night by Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
That alone shows how far Redick has come.
Van Gundy limited Redick’s playing time so much in 2008 that the shooting guard and his agent went public with the frustration, asking to get more minutes or be traded.
“He and I laugh about it now. His agent and I laugh about it now,” Smith said. “Back to what he was to what he has made himself become, he’s made himself into a better basketball player. We kind of snicker about it now just because he put in the work, got better and it really became harder to keep him off the court.”
Redick continued to mold himself into an all-around player and not just a strong shooter. His passing skills are among the team’s best, he whipped himself into shape and is no longer a defensive liability.
Redick averaged 9.6 points per game off the bench last season. He also was a consistent perimeter player in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston— while Carter struggled — and averaged 11.2 points in the series.
“You can’t have enough guys on your roster who at their core is just winning and that losing actually bothers him,” Smith said. “And he’s one of those guys who at their core are just winners, and you want to keep them around.”