5:45 PM EDT, April 9, 2013
Funny, but when J.J. Redick's name is announced Wednesday night, he'll hear something very different on the road: Cheers.
Not just cheers, but overwhelming applause and adoration.
Forever a basketball villain and routinely booed simply because he once starred and won at snooty Duke, Redick returns to Amway Center, where he is as loved as much as Dwight Howard is despised.
J.J. is back for the first time since the Magic dealt him to the Milwaukee Bucks at the February trade deadline.
"He deserves a standing ovation," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said.
J.J. certainly does. I expect the faithful to acknowledge his contributions to team and town --- while on their feet.
"Hopefully, a great standing ovation," Nelson said of his former teammate of six-plus seasons. "He gave his heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears and all that all that good stuff to this organization and to the fans. A guy who contributed to a lot of good years here and kind of left a mark as a professional."
Let's face it: Few of these reunions with key Magic alumni have caused patrons to roll out the welcome wagon (Shaq, Penny, T-Mac, Grant Hill).
They all bitterly parted company with the Magic for various reasons.
Only a few weeks ago, fans held a boo-fest and a venting session when Howard rolled into Orlando for the first time since forcing his way to L.A.
Howard wrecked havoc in the Lakers' win, scoring a season-high 39 points.
I'm guessing J.J. could torch the Magic and run around with three fingers in the air after making 3-point shots and he wouldn't be booed. Fans would only lament and be reminded to fire off e-mails of frustration to the Magic's front office.
Redick wasn't a superstar for the Magic or a franchise player or even a starter. He was a cock-sure college star who nearly washed out early in his career. Humbled, he gradually earned playing time and universal respect and love as an underdog.
Fans took the ride with him. Just when it looked as if might become the rare player who spends a lifetime with one team, J.J. was traded at the peak of his progress.
He was due his financial reward, but his timing was off – at least in Orlando. The loss of Howard triggered a massive rebuild. J.J. was the collateral damage, judged by the Magic's new management as expensive and expendable coming off the bench behind Arron Afflalo.
Redick, 28, never wanted to leave, but he knew the situation. He also had to cash in on the last big contract he'll receive.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn praised J.J. on Tuesday, but added: "I'm a realist at the same time. Part of this business involves trade deadline. Just no way around it. As great as J.J. was for us during games, practice, lockerroom, community… as an organization, we talked about putting a product on floor that's going to be sustainable, and with sustainability comes decision-making."
The Magic better find quality players and people to replace Redick, as well as Ryan Anderson. Then again, any and all veterans are on the block. The club received promising Tobias Harris, 20, in the J.J. deal, and he'll have a spot in Orlando's future.
J.J. still isn't a starter, playing behind Monta Ellis in Milwaukee. Adjusting to a new team, Redick's numbers have dipped a bit across the board as he heads into free agency this summer.
Officially, the Magic will hold their annual Fans Appreciation Night on Monday, when they face the Bulls in their final home game of the season.
Wednesday is J.J. Redick Appreciation Night.
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