Transcript: NBA Playoff Media Conference with ESPN NBA Analyst JJ Redick


Transcript: NBA Playoff Media Conference with ESPN NBA Analyst JJ Redick

ESPN NBA Analyst JJ Redick answered questions on Thursday ahead of the start of the 2023 NBA Playoffs Presented by Google Pixel.

ESPN’s coverage of the 2023 NBA Playoffs Presented by Google Pixel begins this weekend with five nationally televised games. Redick will be on the call for an Eastern Conference matchup as the Philadelphia 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets at 1 p.m. ET. For more information on ESPN’s 2023 NBA Playoff schedule, visit ESPN Press Room.


Q. Kind of wanted your thoughts on Knicks/Cavs. The Cavaliers at least the experts have as a pretty overwhelming favorite. Just, I mean, are you a little surprised by that and just what kind of shot do you give the Knicks here?

JJ REDICK: Yeah, I think this is one of the most evenly matched series actually in the first round. There’s a lot of basketball stuff that I’m particularly intrigued by. Evan Mobley, who I had as my second on my Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Defense. I think he’s going to be really interesting in the series. Especially with his switchability and he’ll end up probably a lot on [Jalen] Brunson. So, then you sort of get into the X’s and O’s, especially late game, about who they’re bringing up and who the Knicks are bringing up in the pick-and-roll, where he’ll be matched up with [Julius] Randle as well. So, he’s a big key to me.

I think [Immanuel] Quickley is a huge X-factor for the Knicks as he has been all season. From December on, he’s been outstanding and, obviously, when he’s been a starter, he’s been even more effective, but I think, on both ends of the ball, he’s key because of Cleveland having two smaller guards that both play off the bounce and can shoot the ball. His defense is going to be big.

And then, just kind of big picture with both these teams, it’s interesting because Cleveland, on a spreadsheet, looks like a title contender, but they have really struggled in clutch games all season. They have sort of been a .500 team all season and they have had more double-digit wins than any other team, I think. So, you have that. And then, on the other end, you have Jalen Brunson who has been one of the best clutch performers all season. And I expect most of these games to be close games. You’re talking about two of the slower teams in the league. Cleveland played at—they were 30th in pace. Knicks had the fifth-slowest pace. Both these teams play slow in the half court. So, it’s really going to come down, I think, to a little bit of this: the nuance of matchups late game, who ends up on who and who they decide to target for both teams.

Q. Can the Knicks win this series if Randle isn’t a hundred percent?

JJ REDICK: You know, they can’t win the series unless Randle plays like Julius Randle. I don’t know his capabilities. I’m not familiar with how much, how effective he is when he’s a little banged up, but again, it’s the playoffs. I would expect Julius to have a good series. The Knicks can win. Again, I haven’t made a pick on this series. I’m very curious to see how it goes this weekend in Game 1 and sort of shed some light on how these teams are going to play each other.

Q. Curious, from your perspective as a player, how much you felt like momentum going into the playoffs mattered. I ask that because the Nuggets finished 10-10 over the last 20 games. I think if they were to win the title, that would match the lowest record in a final 20 games of any champion in the last 20 years. How much do you feel like that mattered to you as a player as you were getting ready to go into the playoffs and are you concerned at all about how the Nuggets finished their season?

JJ REDICK: Yeah, so I think there’s two things there. The first thing is, to answer your question, I thought it was important as a player. I always felt like I wanted to be in a rhythm and a rhythm is just that flow state that we search for as athletes, so you have sort of an individual flow state and then a team, in a sport that requires so much cooperation and sharing and sacrifice at times, like your team can be in a flow state. So, I always felt good or bad going into the playoffs and, to be honest with you, sometimes you feel good, it goes good. Sometimes you feel bad, it goes bad. Sometimes those two things get shifted and you can’t really predict. So much of the playoffs are matchup based, not just individual but team. What does one team do well? What does another team do poorly? Then it becomes about the adjustments within a series and sort of the chess match.

With Denver in particular, you bring up 10-10, they win four in a row, they beat Toronto at home, they’re 46-19. They’re 7-10 over there last 17 games. The thing I would say about it is it doesn’t — I don’t like how they handled the last 17 games. I personally wouldn’t have done that, but the thing I would say about it is they’re not playing bad. It wasn’t like they made a push these last 17 games. You know, they sat some guys out. I thought their attention to detail was very poor at times, especially defensively. This was a team that, for a large chunk of the season, from mid-December on, was right around a top-10 defense and they just reverted back to some old habits. Two guys that we work with now, Nekias Duncan and Steve Jones from The Dunker Spot, two brilliant basketball minds, they—we had them on our podcast last week and they talked about the defensive strategy with Denver to make up for some of [Nikola] Jokić’s mobility issues in pick-and-roll and so much is required on that back side and they brought in the right people now, I think, with Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown and [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope], that all of those rotations and covering for each other, like they can do it. We have seen them do it. I just didn’t like how they played this last 20 percent of the season.

Q. If you could, if you were in charge, what were three of the things you would do differently about the way the game is broadcast? Do you have any ideas or suggestions that you think would make it a more enriching experience for the fans and for the players?

JJ REDICK: I think what’s difficult and I really—last year, I, Tim Corrigan—legend, and Dave Roberts, my boss, like, they were kind enough to give me a shot to call a couple games in the regular season and I guess I did good enough that they gave me some playoff games, but last year, I felt very, just like taking it all in, overwhelmed. This year, I felt like I got into a good rhythm and really understood the process.

And I see a lot of comparisons. This guy, whether it’s Greg Olsen or Tony Romo, it’s like [Richard Jefferson] is like Greg Olsen. I said, “Wait a second. Football and basketball, basketball and baseball, it’s a totally different sport.” So, a lot of what I think would be enriching, you frankly don’t have time for because the game moves too fast. You don’t have 25 to 30 seconds to talk between plays. You don’t have 25 to 30 seconds to show replays. So, you get in what you can and that’s the difficulty and that’s the challenge and that’s what makes our producers and directors at ESPN so good is that they do do a good job of that. I wish we could do it more. I just don’t think you have time for it in our sport. And that’s where I think—and I told Dave Roberts this—I think we could do a better job. I love what they do on NFL Live. Those guys do a great job of breaking down. If we could do more of that with our coverage, I think that would be great for the fan.

Q. I wanted to ask you specifically about the Grizzlies-Lakers series and the shooting in particular of the Grizzlies having the option of having Desmond Bane and Luke Kennard, two of the top-5 shooters in the league on the floor at the same time. What kind of dynamic does that give the Grizzlies and how important is it going to be to have that as an option against a team like the Lakers?

JJ REDICK: Great question. Let me say this first because there’s a lot of great first round matchups. This matchup, particularly, is probably the most intriguing and interesting to me with these two teams and I think the individual matchup of—and I assume this will be, will play out and they will guard each other a lot and they will be together, is Austin Reeves and Desmond Bane. We saw Austin Reeves play a role and do a role really well for about a year and a half and then, all of a sudden, he just like became a different player and he’s really, really good. He has all these intangibles that I love. I think he’s going to be a key for the Lakers.

I think Desmond Bane is a huge key.

The comment I would make on [Luke] Kennard, because I think he’s unlocked something for them offensively that they didn’t have, just in terms of his shooting and providing space, like he’s been awesome for them since they picked him up at the deadline. How much is LeBron going to try to manipulate getting Luke Kennard in pick-and-rolls and trying to get him in a show or trying to manipulate a switch where now he’s matched up with LeBron and then you have to double team and LeBron’s picking apart your defense?

So, that’s my question on Kennard and I hope he holds up and does well defensively, because I would love to see him on the floor. Both these teams, I think, at times, against these defenses, because the Lakers have been the fourth-best defense since the All-Star break, Grizzlies have been a top-three defense all season. Both these teams, I think, at times, have struggled to score in the half court and that’s why Bane is such a key and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s scoring picked up the last six weeks. They’re huge keys for Memphis in the half court and then Reeves I think is sort of that third option, that third shot creator. That’s going to be a key. So, that’s the sort of thing that I’m looking for is how these teams score in the half court and, to your point, I think Bane and Kennard are impact players in this series because of their shooting.

Q. Obviously, talking about the Lakers and Grizzlies series, one of the more intriguing matchups is obviously Anthony Davis and Jaren Jackson. How do you anticipate that matchup going through seven games?

JJ REDICK: Yeah, you know the thing I love about LeBron is the way he thinks the game. You can see at times a real concerted effort to get Anthony Davis going. So, LeBron knows that Jaren Jackson Jr., at times, has trouble staying out of foul trouble, so I think this will be a case where especially early in games early in quarters, early in halves, LeBron is really looking to get Anthony Davis the ball in his spots and Jaren Jackson Jr., he’s just got to do a good job of contesting and making it difficult and staying out of foul trouble because the loss of Brandon Clark and not having Steven Adams in the lineup is huge. Again, I’m not making picks right now. I’m not making picks but, you know, if they had those two guys, I probably would favor the Grizzlies in this series. I’m not sure where I’m at because I think Jaren Jackson Jr., for the Grizzlies to win this series, has got to play more than 28 minutes a game in this series. He just has to and so, I think you’re right, that is a very key matchup, but I’m looking for LeBron to get Anthony Davis the ball early and often.

Q. I wanted to go back to you as a player. I was curious, looking back during your first time playing in the NBA playoffs what are some things that you wish you knew then that you know now on how to mentally prepare for those high-pressure moments?

JJ REDICK: Yeah, you know, first couple times I played in the playoffs were sort of one-offs. It was Game 4 against Detroit my rookie year. I think I played, I don’t know, seven or eight minutes. Didn’t see much action in that series.

Then the next year I think I played one single stretch in the second half of a game in Toronto in the first round and then didn’t play in the second round.

Actually, it’s funny, a story I love telling. We were down probably 11 at the end of the third quarter in Toronto. It was the one game they won in that series and Stan [Van Gundy]’s like, “You’re in,” and, I mean, I barely played that whole season. I’m like, “All right,” so I go to the scorer’s table. We’re looking up at the clock, counting down from a minute, you know, waiting to get into the action, ready to go and Stan walked over to me, and he goes, “Don’t try and be a hero,” and I’m like, “All right. All right. Thanks, guy.”

My third year is really where I got an extended stretch. That was when we made The Finals. Just an incredible experience. It became apparent right away that the importance and value of each possession. I think that’s the thing that really stuck out. That’s the thing that I carried with me the rest of my career in the playoffs. I think for anybody who is going into the playoffs, whether you’re a young player or not, the first time you go through the playoffs, that’s the thing that strikes you; the intensity of each possession.

Specifically, I remember that Spurs series in the first round in 2015. They were the defending champ and that was the toughest seven games of basketball I’ve ever played. To beat them, to beat [Gregg Popovich] and Kawhi [Leonard] and [Tim] Duncan and [Tony] Parker and [Manu] Ginóbili. They were champions and it required so much attention to detail, so much focus and that’s the thing that I just—it hit me right away in that third-year run. It helped me the rest of my career.

Q. When we talk about the Lakers, what type of defensive game will Anthony Davis need to play in order for them to be successful against the Grizzlies?

JJ REDICK: Yeah, well, the Grizzlies, they primarily score in three ways. Especially with [Steven] Adams being out, they’re not as potent on offense, on the offensive glass, which second chance points was a huge point of or a huge source of offense for them prior to his injury. Although I will say Jaren Jackson Jr. has been particularly good on the glass over the last six weeks. Transition points. They have struggled to score in the half court, so they’re out in transition. Desmond Bane, Luke Kennard, their shooting, and Ja Morant in pick-and-roll, trying to get to the basket.

And Ja Morant is fearless. He’s going to get to the paint one way or another. He’s going to elevate. He’s going to decide what the hell to do in the air and he’s probably going to score. So, for Anthony Davis, I think when you talk about what he needs to do, he’s got to be a rim protector in the half court, especially with Ja Morant because he’s going to attack the basket over and over again. So, in similar ways with Jaren Jackson Jr., he’s got to stay out of foul trouble. The Lakers need his offense. I thought AD, all the things that — not me, because I haven’t killed AD — but all the things that pundits have asked of him over the years, for how he should be playing, like he did it this year. This was as good of a season, when he was on the court, as good of a season as Anthony Davis has had in his career. On both ends of the court he was absolutely fantastic. That’s what the Lakers need in this series to beat the Grizzlies.

Q. Wanted to get your sense of Sacramento, this is a team obviously now third in the West. It’s a different scenario from just being excited to be here. I think once you get to the third seed now you have some real expectations. But going against Golden State, what do you think are some of the keys for them and will they be able to defend at a playoff-level intensity, especially, you just waxed so poetically about your first time in the playoffs, some of these guys are going to be going through that too. Give me your thoughts on Sac though.

JJ REDICK: I mentioned this with my own experience. Just the value of possessions, the mental focus required. The mental focus required to beat the Golden State Warriors is extremely high. And I go back to that Denver series last year. The amount of mental mistakes they made in that series, especially defensively was glaring. For the Kings to beat the Warriors, it’s going to come down to that stuff. It’s going to come down to off-ball switching, it’s going to come down to being attached when Golden State gets into their post splits and Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] are running together. Like all that stuff, you have to be so on point on and off the ball against the Warriors to beat them. Draymond [Green] and Steph, two of the smartest players I ever played against, especially offensively for Steph and particularly on the defense for Draymond, but Draymond as well, the way he can sort of exploit advantages that he sees offensively, that’s interesting to me. I don’t know the matchups. I would expect Davion Mitchell to get a lot of run in this series.

And then you look at the other side, Kings not having been in the playoffs for 16 years. I wish I was calling a Kings game in this series. A home Kings game. Like I cannot wait to see that arena and that fan base getting a playoff game again. It’s going to be an awesome atmosphere for them.

At home, they do a lot of things that the Warriors struggle with on the road and that’s what’s really interesting. The Warriors three-point defense on the road this season was one of the worse in the league. Sacramento’s one of the best shooting teams, a high-volume shooting team and so, oddly enough, Sacramento hasn’t shot well at home. They have shot better on the road, which is weird, but that matchup is really interesting. I think it’s a little bit of a dichotomy where one team’s strength is another team’s weakness and who is going to be able to exploit it the most.

Q. I’m curious to know what team or two do you think can make a dark horse run down the road?

JJ REDICK: Down the road, like another season?

Q. No, just later this season.

JJ REDICK: Oh, okay. Look, you could talk me into seven teams in the West. Some of that is health dependent. I’m a little bit less bullish on the Grizzlies’ chances without Steven Adams. I think, in particular he’s needed this series, in a potential second round matchup against [Domantas] Sabonis. He’s needed in a potential Finals matchup, Western Conference matchup against  , he would be needed, so I’m less bullish on them.

But I think a number of the teams in the West, you know, Paul George, his health kind of will determine to me how deep the Clippers can go.

The favorites in the East, the three teams, I don’t see anybody else in the East winning the East.

So, yeah, I think the West is where the answer to your question lies and, to me, the favorites are the Suns, so I guess I would go the other six teams, which would be all seven of the top seeds plus the Suns.


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