July 22, 2024

What we learned about JJ Redick’s strategy in Lakers intro: More 3s, Anthony Davis’ role and more

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — During his opening statement at his introductory news conference on Monday, new Los Angeles Lakers coach JJ Redick paused to address the purple-and-gold elephant in the room.

“I have never coached in the NBA before,” Redick deadpanned before smirking. “I don’t know if you guys have heard that.”

It took less than 30 seconds for Redick to disarm the crowd of 40-plus media members. For nearly 48 minutes, Redick navigated his first interview session impressively, offering up a rare combination of charisma, wit, candidness, thoughtfulness, vulnerability and self-deprecation. His gravitas was on full display.

He didn’t just win the proverbial news conference — he knocked it out of the park.

Redick, 40, acknowledged his novice status as a coach while simultaneously emphasizing his immense basketball experience as a college superstar, NBA starter and successful broadcaster and podcaster. He shared details about his year-long quest to become an NBA head coach, from picking the brains of countless coaches and GMs to journaling and visualizing himself coaching. He embraced tough questions about the Lakers’ annual championship-or-bust expectations, being the No. 2 choice behind Connecticut coach Dan Hurley and whether his podcast and friendship with LeBron James helped him land the gig.

Most importantly, though, Redick was finally able to share his coaching philosophies, which largely aligned with what the Lakers needed last season and with what they were looking for during their coaching search.

“When I think about the NBA today, the game is evolving and it’s evolving fast,” Redick said. “And one of the things in coaching that I think you have to be is adaptable. You have to be adaptable to your roster. You have to be adaptable in game-planning against your opponent. And that’s one of the things I really will strive to be.”

The adaptability starts with knowing his strengths and limitations. Redick admitted he doesn’t know his blind spots as a coach yet. He’s considering coaching the Lakers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, and will, at a minimum, be heavily involved with the team.

He immediately pointed out multiple areas where he wants the Lakers to be better next season: offensive rebounding, 3-point attempts, turnovers and defensive schematics. It was both an acknowledgment of the shortcomings of the previous staff and also a sign of Redick’s maniacal attention to detail and thirst to problem-solve.

“I think a big thing for me is, you have to look at your roster, and then you have to figure out how you can create margins with that roster,” Redick said. “The team was 29th in offensive rebounding percentage. If you look at the trends of the NBA right now, teams that really value possessions are sending guys from the corner. They’re not worried about getting three guys back. … You create a margin there. That all came from just analyzing the game over the last three years.”

A big point of emphasis was shooting more 3-pointers, which Redick referenced multiple times. The 15-year NBA veteran, who shot 41.5 percent from deep for his career, was a prolific marksman who relied on off-ball actions to create looks on the move.

Last season, the Lakers ranked 28th in 3-point attempts per game. They’ve never ranked higher than 17th in the LeBron James-Anthony Davis era. They’ve ranked in the bottom seven in three of their five seasons together. For Los Angeles to truly contend again, it must reverse its 3-point aversion.

Redick plans on collaborating with the team’s analytics department to optimize the team’s shot quality and relying on them incessantly during the season. He’s already the most numbers-friendly coach in Lakers history.

“I’m going to use math,” Redick said.

A week ago, Redick connected with Davis over the phone, with the two discussing his role and schematics on both sides of the ball. Redick wants to find ways to use Davis more near the elbows and top of the 3-point arc, similar to how Denver uses Nikola Jokić and Sacramento uses Domantas Sabonis.

“One of the things I brought up with him is just the idea of him as a hub,” Redick said. “There’s a bunch of guys at the 5 position in the NBA that sort of operate in that way. I don’t know that he’s been used in that way and sort of maximized all of his abilities. That’s the simple thing with him.”

On Thursday, Redick spoke with James, who called him to congratulate him on becoming the team’s new coach. The two chatted for between 15 to 20 minutes, Redick said. Redick said he’d like James to shoot more 3s after a career-best shooting campaign and to play off the ball more to conserve his energy, with the caveat that he’d like James’ input as well.

“(You) certainly have to get buy-in and talk to him about how he wants to play,” Redick said. “Him and I have joked about this, but he shot over 40 percent from 3 this year. Like, I want him shooting 3s. He’s gonna have his three or four bursts every game where he gets out in transition and does things that no one at his age should ever be able to do, but he does it. It’s really just figuring out in the halfcourt. Putting him in different spots, both as a scorer and a facilitator.”

Redick spent the weekend on calls with most of the rest of the players on the roster. He noted that he isn’t just excited to work with James and Davis, but with the rest of the Lakers’ younger core, too.

Rob Pelinka and Redick named Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Max Christie, Jalen Hood-Schifino and Maxwell Lewis as notable young players. (D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are similar in age to Reaves and Hachimura, weren’t named. Russell has an $18.7 million player option he must decide on by June 29.)

Regarding Hachimura, Redick highlighted Hachimura’s shooting, athleticism and size as attributes the Lakers want to unleash more in their revamped offensive scheme.

“I think for him in terms of how I envision him on this team, I want him shooting more 3s,” Redick said. “So, that’s a big part of it. I brought up the offensive rebounding, I think he can really become an elite offensive rebounder. As we build out our offensive system and how we’re going to play, when we incorporate moving and cutting, Rui can be an excellent cutter and part of that is because we’re going to manipulate screening angles, he’s going to get mismatches and he can really score at the basket if he has smaller players on him.”

The buzzword of the day was “player development,” with Redick and Pelinka continually mentioning the need to draft and develop young talent under the NBA’s new stricter collective bargaining agreement.

The Lakers are enlisting Redick to lead both the short- and long-term visions of the franchise, which includes figuring out a sustainable plan for success once James retires (or leaves).

Pelinka revealed that the franchise is considering designing a phone app for Redick to share strategy, plays and concepts with his players, with the goal of appealing more to Gen Z players who learn in a different manner.

“JJ and I have had some really robust conversations around innovation and sort of even gamifying player development,” Pelinka said. “We’ve talked about how do we translate coach Redick’s offensive system to app-based or a phone-based deliverable where players can be buying into a philosophy and learning it in a way that meets today’s young player. And I think innovation has got to be at the core of that.”

As for how he’s going to get buy-in from his players, Redick said he’s going to spend the next two months having as many conversations as possible to set clear standards and expectations.

If those conversations lead to conflict, so be it. Redick encourages open and honest dialogue between himself and his players.

Redick has often been compared to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who also made the jump from the broadcast booth to coaching in 2014, and he preached a Kerrism in the need for joy and a fun daily atmosphere. Redick put the onus on himself to generate that type of environment.

“The pursuit of greatness can’t be miserable,” Redick said. “Every day that somebody walks in this building, they have to enjoy it. I think part of being a coach, right, is, like, ‘Can I maximize each player?’ That helps maximize the group. And does everybody in the building, not just the players and staff, does everybody in the building enjoy coming to work every day? That’s sort of on me to create that culture.”

Redick begins his NBA coaching career as a blank slate. Though he’s played for notable coaches such as Mike Krzyzewski, Doc Rivers, Rick Carlisle and Stan Van Gundy, he isn’t a descendent of a particular coaching tree, as many first-time NBA coaches are. The beauty in that lack of history, at least from Redick and the Lakers’ perspective, is it allows him to approach his coaching debut with a rare open-mindedness.

“I consider myself to be someone who has a high level of curiosity and a love of learning,” Redick said. “I’m not going to be perfect. I know that. The pursuit of perfect, which I’ve tried for my whole life, I recognize that you’re never going to get there. So, giving myself a little bit of grace is going to be important.”

(Photo of JJ Redick and Rob Pelinka: Damian Dovarganes / AP)