As you probably heard, longtime NBA sharpshooter and former Sixer JJ Redick retired earlier this offseason. Redick has now fully shifted to his second career as a podcaster, devoting more energy to his The Old Man and the Three podcast. At a recent live taping of the show in Brooklyn, Redick said something to make some (presumably) Philadelphians in attendance cheer:
JJ Redick says his biggest regret in his NBA career is not coming back to Philadelphia pic.twitter.com/ajAGPu6alv— J (@SixersJustin) September 29, 2021
“You can’t change an outcome, because an outcome is out of your control. So you can change a decision. I wish there was a way I could have gone back to Philly.”
First of all, this comment is just nice to hear. All summer, we’ve been dealing with how a certain high-profile player is willing to forfeit millions and millions of dollars not to play in Philadelphia. So it’s refreshing for a well-respected and well-traveled veteran of the league to put his time here in a positive light.
And I have nothing but fond memories of JJ’s time in the City of Brotherly Love. Amazingly, Redick is sixth on the franchise’s all-time list for three-pointers made in the regular season (433), despite playing just two seasons here. His two-man game with Joel Embiid was often the driving engine behind the offense during his time here. Plus, members of the 2018-19 team that fell to the eventual-champion Toronto Raptors as time expired in Game 7 will have a special place in Sixers fans’ hearts.
But I don’t think Redick’s returning to Philadelphia would have made a difference these last two years. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to ignore the salary cap implications of JJ returning to the club. It’s certainly possible that they wouldn’t have had access to some exception that they ended up using, or that ownership wouldn’t have signed off on some other signing because they were already paying the added luxury tax from having Redick back in the fold. Any of those things would only further my argument that his presence wouldn’t have ultimately made a difference. However, let’s just assume the team had the same roster, plus Redick, and take a look back:
2019-20: Sixers swept 4-0 by Boston in the first round
The 2019-20 season was historically weird for all the obvious reasons. The league suspended play in March at the outset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and eventually resumed play in late July inside the Walt Disney World “Bubble”. With the Pelicans all but out of the playoff running (you may recall the rumors of the league setting the 22-team threshold where it did just to get the Zion ratings in the Bubble), Redick didn’t seem hyper-focused on the task at hand:
That’s all in good fun, of course. I would have absolutely loved a Sixers Bubble collaboration with Redick podcasting and Matisse Thybulle vlogging.
More importantly, given Ben Simmons’ injury, the Sixers didn’t stand much of a chance in their first-round sweep to the Celtics anyway. You may recall how much Redick was picked apart defensively in Philadelphia’s 2018 second-round loss to Boston. I’m sure it would have been even worse with two years more tread on JJ’s tires. Maybe his shooting would have helped the Sixers steal a game, but the ultimate outcome would have remained the same.
2020-21: Sixers lose 4-3 to Atlanta in the second round
As for last year, you could maybe convince me that Redick would have made a difference against Atlanta, given the tipping point was “don’t blow a 26-point lead at home” (a big ask, I realize). Not blowing an 18-point lead in Game 4 also would have helped. Maybe Redick’s veteran presence in the huddle would have been enough of a calming influence to halt one of those Hawks runs. Or as a guy who had been in over a dozen playoff series over the years, he wouldn’t have been afraid to step up and hit a big shot on a night when Joel Embiid and Seth Curry were literally the only Sixers to make a field goal in the second half. Or he could have helped Ben Simmons through his historically poor free throw stretch. After all, Redick has a history of sticking up for teammates with head-scratching shooting woes, as we remember from Kyle Neubeck’s 2018 video of Redick defending Markelle Fultz to reporters:
Here’s my counterpoint, though. Redick was washed last year. I’m not saying that to be insulting. The man was 36 years old (now 37) and played a decade and a half in the league. That’s an incredible run. But even he must have realized it, since he just retired. Redick shot just 37.1 percent from 3 last season, easily his worst mark since 2012-13. He dealt with hamstring, knee, and heel injuries last year, only appearing in 44 games. So there’s no assurance he even would have been available in the playoffs.
Still, you might ask, what if he was available? 37.1 percent from 3 is still good, better than most of what the Sixers had coming off the bench. But let’s think about the other end of the floor. I mentioned how Redick was picked on defensively back in 2018. Now, add three years and JJ being officially on the back half of his thirties. Seth Curry was about as hot as could be shooting the ball, but he was getting worked by Kevin Huerter on the other end. Imagine Redick in a similar role, a half decade older and with a negative wingspan. Heck, think about a 36-year-old Redick getting switched onto Trae Young. My point is that Redick’s availability in last year’s playoffs for the Sixers might not have been all the sunshine and roses you might imagine.
So yes, maybe his returning to Philadelphia would have helped them survive the Hawks, because, again, 26-point lead at home. But now that we truly know what a dysfunctional train car the team was by the end of the year (Joel Embiid playing on one leg, Ben Simmons on his very last thread with playing in Philadelphia), do you really think that team was going to pull together and beat Milwaukee a round later? I don’t.
My theory: Redick views it as his biggest regret mostly because he could have retired with his “made the playoffs every year of his career” streak intact.
Best of luck to JJ in retirement. I really did enjoy his time as a Sixer, and I hope he can enjoy podcasting, spending time with his family, and drinking wine to his heart’s content in Brooklyn.