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JJ Redick ready to lead New Orleans Pelicans and help NBA utilize platform in Black Lives Matter movement in Orlando restart

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

From both a mental and physical standpoint, JJ Redick sounds as ready as any player could possibly be considering the present landscape in this country for the Orlando restart of NBA games.

“I’m excited to hopefully play some basketball. I don’t think anyone expected us to be potentially playing games under these circumstances.”

The New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard joined former presidential candidate Andrew Yang on a podcast, and it made for quite the entertaining and informative listen regarding Redick’s preparedness for the upcoming slate of games, some of the inner workings of the league and discussion on several political and social issues.

Before Redick spoke to those topics, he first divulged how and why he came to sign with the New Orleans Pelicans last summer. Although he stated that he wanted to return to the Philadelphia 76ers at the time, he couldn’t ignore the transformation occurring in The Crescent City as well as the opportunity to serve as a mentor to younger players.

2019 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

“The opportunity with New Orleans I looked at a number of ways,” Redick says. “Financially, it was the most lucrative contract that was offered to me last summer. But Trajan Langdon had just been hired as GM. David Griffin had just been hired {as the executive vice president of basketball operations}. They get the number one pick. About three or four days before free agency, they draft Zion. They draft Jaxson Hayes with the eighth pick. They draft Nickeil Alexander-Walker with the 17th pick. They make the trade; they trade Anthony Davis. They bring in Lonzo Ball, they bring in Brandon Ingram. And there was a number of days where you’re waiting like, ‘I wonder if Philly is going to work out. I wonder if Philly is going to work out.’ And I just felt like if all this great stuff is happening in New Orleans, I can move my family for a year or two, and this will be a great opportunity as well. It also offered me another chance to mentor younger players, to sort of be the voice of reason in the locker room, and to help guys, obviously grow as players, but grow as men in this league. That’s been something that I got to do in Philly and it’s something I’ve continued in New Orleans, and that’s been hugely rewarding for me.”

Redick goes on in the podcast to talk about how he felt compelled to take full advantage of the down time for the sake of his own sanity once the players were a few weeks removed following Rudy Gobert testing positive for the new coronavirus.

“I’m a very much routine-based person,” Redick says. “So I made the decision when everything got shut down, I left New Orleans and came up to New York. The first 10-14 days I sort of took inventory of everything. I was trying to get as much information as possible about timelines, about what was going on with the coronavirus, about what was going on with local and federal governments. The first 10-14 days I was not focused on basketball at all, and I realized that for me to stay sane during this period of time that I had to get back in the gym. So after that sort of 14-day quarantine, I found access to a gym. I worked out every day there for about two months and then I came back to Brooklyn May 10th and I’ve had access to a gym here.”

Through all of his work over these last few months, Redick believes that he’s in really good shape for the resumption of play. For instance, he mentions that he’s lost 14 pounds during the suspension.

“I’ve lost like 14 pounds, to be honest with you,” Redick says. “I weighed myself today and I was 192. I left New Orleans, I was like 206...I feel like I’m in great shape right now. I’ve done a ton of conditioning. I need to get back to New Orleans and Orlando where I have access to a better weight room than what I have access to right now, but all in all, I feel I’m in good shape and I’ll be prepared to go.”

As far as his feelings on the resumption of the season, Redick understands the financial implications involved as well as his own responsibility to the league.

“In terms of me getting into the playoffs, I would say that’s very far down my list,” Redick says. “It’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I do believe the financial reasons for returning for either a player or the league itself go beyond just the money we stand to lose this year because I do believe our CBA is sort of in flux right now. So if we decide to not play or let’s say COVID wipes out Orlando and all of a sudden we’re in a lockdown and we can’t play, there will be financial repercussions into next year, into the following year, until things are sort of back to normal — in terms of fans going to games. We’re looking at a hit.”

What will Disney life be like for the Heat? Details from the NBAs 113-page safety plan Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

“My responsibility is always going to be to my family and if I feel like they will be safe and taken care of, then I’m okay leaving them. Do I want to leave them for two months? No, of course not. But my other responsibility is to the league and to the game. It’s been amazing to me. And to your point, I totally understand both perspectives of the motivation for not playing versus playing with respect to Black Lives Matter.”

Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken center stage across the world. Redick is of the opinion that the resumption of games on Orlando’s campus will prove to be a positive in helping the Black community.

“I do believe there is a huge opportunity for us to have a platform, but that platform goes beyond just wearing a t-shirt or kneeling during the anthem,” Redick says. “I believe it will be the first time we’ve had that many players in one place. The teams will be there. The league will be there. We can have open and direct conversations about coming up with initiatives and actions that will directly benefit Black people and Black communities. I believe that. I believe that is the opportunity in us playing and us going to Orlando. Beyond just having a platform and a microphone and a camera, I think we can get some things done. I think the league will negotiate that on good faith. I think our union is motivated to do that. I know our players are motivated to really put forth meaningful change beyond just wearing a t-shirt and kneeling during the national anthem. We need to move beyond that.”

None of this means that Redick dismisses the idea of basketball potentially serving as a distraction while so many are involved in the fight for social justice though. On the contrary, he thinks there is plenty of truth in that argument, and further, he applauds all those who decide to make Black Lives Matter their sole priority.

“The flip side of that is deciding not to play and saying it’s going to be a distraction from the Black Lives Matter movement — totally get that too,” Redick says. “And agree with that too. It’s not wrong. I don’t think either one of those perspectives is wrong. I think they’re both right. You’ve seen WNBA players, I think three or four of them already. Natasha Cloud, Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore a couple of years ago. You’ve seen a number of players come out and say ‘I’m going to skip this season and focus on this social justice movement that’s happening for Black Lives Matter right now.’ I applaud that. I really do. It takes an incredible amount of courage to do that. I don’t know that it’s right for an entire league, I don’t know if it’s wrong for an entire league to sit out. I don’t know the answer to that. It’s a very complicated situation for sure.”

To hear JJ Redick and Andrew Yang on this wonderful podcast in its entirety, follow the link below to and listen for yourselves. It’s worth the time!