New chapter begins in Redd’s comeback
When he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament for the second time in 12 months, the Bucks’ Michael Redd was forced to face NBA mortality. This life isn’t going to last forever, and it can be taken away, even during your prime.
Redd was one of the league’s more devastating 3-point shooters and pure scorers when he tore the ligaments in his left knee Jan. 24, 2009. He thought the worst was over when he arduously rehabilitated and returned for Opening Night nine months later.
But at Staples Center on Jan. 9, 2010, Redd tweaked the knee again while running, and the journey back would have to begin again. Last week he sat on the bench at TD Garden watching his teammates work out, close to returning.
He envisions a return to All-Star status, but that remains light-years away. Redd realizes he will have to settle for minor accomplishments for now.
“I can taste it. I’m excited about being back and playing again. I miss playing,’’ said Redd, who is expected to make his return today against the Knicks. “I think this whole thing has been a test of my character.
“It changed my life, how I approach things in life. One minute you are on a pedestal with an Olympic gold medal, the next minute you’re out of the league for a year and half with injury. You go from super high to ultra low.’’
Redd is uncertain what to expect from his twice-rebuilt knee but he has been reassured that it is sound enough for him to continue his career.
The former Ohio State standout, who helped lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 1999, had established himself as the face of the Bucks, averaging more than 20 points in six consecutive seasons, and making an All-Star appearance in 2004. He was also a member of the 2008 Olympic team.
Redd’s knee injuries, however, forced the Bucks to move on without him. Milwaukee has become Andrew Bogut’s and Brandon Jennings’s team. Management really didn’t know what to expect from Redd but held on to his expiring $18 million salary to get cap relief this summer. With an outside chance at making the playoffs, the Bucks could use an offensive boost, especially after their 56-point performance last week against the Celtics.
They welcome Redd’s return.
“He’s looking good, but part of the issue is we haven’t been able to get him into any four-on-four up-and-down yet,’’ said coach Scott Skiles. “We just haven’t had time to do it.
“What I’ve tried to do is predetermine, just see where we’re at right at that moment. He looks good. To me, he looks better than the first time when he came back. He’s put in a lot of work. He certainly looks like he’s in shape and ready to go.’’
Redd understands he won’t reclaim his status in Milwaukee. He is a free agent at season’s end and it’s likely that he will be playing for another team next season unless he makes dramatic strides. The Bucks signed John Salmons to a long-term deal to be their scoring guard, and Milwaukee’s future may not include one of its all-time greats.
“I’ve been talking to the coaches and they told me to just play basketball,’’ said Redd. “And I’ll find my way and figure it out. When you’ve had two major surgeries, the thing about it is just coming back and playing. I won’t be thinking about how I fit in or the pressure to score, just go play and have fun.
“My thing is to be a threat. I know when I come back, teams will say, ‘He’s been hurt but he can still shoot that thing. We have to pay attention to him.’ That’s what I hope to create.’’
Redd has taken advice from former teammate Ray Allen about rehabilitation and playing deep into your 30s. Before Allen was traded to the Celtics, he missed the final 25 games of the 2006-07 season with surgery on both ankles.
Allen went to dinner with Redd during the Celtics’ recent visit to Milwaukee, offering encouragement. Allen was a mentor when the Bucks drafted Redd in 2000 and he played in just six games during his rookie season.
“It’s a lifelong relationship that we have, and he’s helped me out with shooting when he was with the Bucks,’’ Redd said. “We just stay connected.
“I look at his career, and at age 35, he still looks phenomenal. He said, ‘Mike, you’re younger than me and you have the opportunity to continue your career and play many more years if you keep your body in shape.’ We’ve been talking about that.’’
Redd spoke with his doctors and asked the hardest question. He is healthy enough to play basketball, but is he healthy enough to approach his previous level?
“The [doctors] all said, ‘You absolutely can,’ ’’ said Redd, whose biggest fear is dragging his left leg or being two steps slow and thus limited to becoming a bench player.
“That was a thought of mine: If I can’t play the way I want to, I don’t know if I want to come back and play. They all said, ‘Take the proper steps to come back, take your time.’
“It’s just good to get back to, No. 1, help this team win, and No. 2, let people know I am back.’’
Hansbrough played just nine games in December, and the night before O’Brien was fired by team president Larry Bird, he did not play in a loss to Chicago. He didn’t play in the previous game, either.
Hansbrough was being labeled a bust without getting a true opportunity to show his talents. And sitting next to him on the bench were rookies Paul George and Lance Stephenson, relegated to mere spectators by O’Brien.
Once Frank Vogel took over for O’Brien, he pulled Hansbrough aside and told him he would split time with former college rival Josh McRoberts (Hansbrough was North Carolina, McRoberts Duke). Vogel said he needed Hansbrough’s energy.
“We had talked about it,’’ said Hansbrough. “As an assistant, he’s one of the guys I went to and asked, ‘What do I need to do to get playing time?’ And when he got the job, he said to me, ‘You’re going to play more minutes and be a big part of our team.’ ’’
In 25 games since Vogel became coach (not including last night), Hansbrough was averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. And those numbers spiked in March to 20.2 and 7.9. He posted five consecutive games of 20 or more points before a difficult 10-point night Wednesday against the Celtics.
Hansbrough’s story is fascinating because there were varied opinions on his potential NBA effectiveness. Some believed the Pacers wasted a first-round pick, while others believed he could serve as a capable power forward.
The amount of scrutiny he has faced, from his own former coach and those outside forces, is not lost on him.
“It feels great,’’ said Hansbrough, “especially after so many people have doubted me. I had a coach who didn’t really believe in me, and just to get out there and have some confidence and be part of the team, that just feels great. I just have to keep working and keep on improving.’’
Vogel sensed Hansbrough had a lot to offer.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to play between 20 and 30 minutes every single game,’ ’’ said the coach. “ ‘You’re going to grow, you’re going to make mistakes, but we’ll work through the mistakes. We’ve got to get your comfort level up, and when that comfort level gets up, your confidence is going to take off.’
“And that’s pretty much what happened.’’
Hansbrough believed O’Brien had little faith in his ability, and that affected his confidence. Vogel has served as more of a motivator as the Pacers try to build with their younger core.
“He’s definitely given us a lot of confidence,’’ said Hansbrough, “and to be honest with you, he’s a much better communicator, and we say things we think we should work on and vice versa.’’
Meanwhile, Hansbrough has garnered more attention during March Madness because of his brother, Ben Hansbrough, the surprising Big East Player of the Year who led Notre Dame to a No. 2 seed in the Southwest Regional. Notre Dame beat Akron, 69-56, in the opening round Friday.
“I’m really excited for him,’’ said Tyler, who won a national championship with North Carolina in 2009. “I want him to go far in the tournament, since I know how exciting it is and I experienced that.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m probably more nervous than him because I understand what it’s like and what he’s going through.’’
Rose said the African-American players recruited by Duke in those days were “Uncle Toms,’’ most notably Grant Hill, who led the school to consecutive national titles, one of them over Michigan.
Hill responded in an eloquent essay last week in the New York Times, which also caused a stir because while Rose said he felt that way about Hill nearly 20 years ago, he hasn’t stated his thoughts on Duke players today.
What Hill has accomplished should be celebrated, and the idea that because he came from a two-parent home and attended Duke he is a sellout is absurd. But that isn’t the issue.
If Rose wants to be revealing, he should be just as honest and forthcoming about himself during that era. In the documentary, Rose offered little apology for the mistakes he made during that time.
Rose cannot be shocked with Hill’s reaction or sidestep responsibility simply by saying that that was his opinion 20 years ago. The interview for the documentary was recent, and he used words that perhaps were designed to shock viewers.
He got the ratings he wanted, but there is a price to pay for that, and Rose needs to understand that such words, even 20 years later, do inflict pain.
Layups Props to Portland’s Andre Miller, who has never received the respect he deserves, for approaching the great Bob Cousy for 14th on the all-time assists list. Miller trailed Cousy by 10 entering last night’s game. He has played in 964 NBA games, while Cousy played in 924 . . . If the Maloof brothers are going to move the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim, they are going to do their best to maintain the club’s history. Reports indicate that they are applying to change the name to the Anaheim Royals. Once upon a time, the Kings played in Rochester, N.Y., and Cincinnati as the Royals, with Oscar Robertson as their most identifiable player and Cousy as one of their coaches. The Royals moved to Kansas City for the 1972-73 season and became the Kings. The Kings then moved to Sacramento for the 1985-86 season . . . If Jeff Capel doesn’t land another NCAA job, look for the former Oklahoma coach to be an attractive candidate for an NBA assistant coaching job. Capel was an annual visitor to Celtics training camp in Newport, R.I., and has established strong ties to Doc Rivers and other NBA coaches. Capel’s father is an assistant with the Charlotte Bobcats after coaching at Old Dominion . . . NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter attended the recent Celtics-Nets game in New Jersey and had extensive conversations with Paul Pierce, who has been active in negotiations with the owners, and Ray Allen. The main topic was how the NFL lockout could be similar to what NBA players would endure if the owners follow suit. Hunter has been attempting to prepare the players for a lockout, advising them to save money . . . Austin Rivers is a confident kid, as evidenced by his statement that he wanted to “destroy’’ LeBron James if they ever got on the court. That day may happen sooner than expected, as Rivers is unlikely to be a four-year college player and Doc has no problem with his son leaving school early. Duke hasn’t had many one-and-out players (Corey Maggette being an exception), so Rivers’s stint at Duke may be brief, if not that brief.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.