J.J. Redick saw firsthand just how big of a deal the NBA is in China.
J.J. Redick and the Los Angeles Clippers were in China this week to play two exhibition games against the Charlotte Hornets as part of the NBA's Global Games. The league will play a total of seven games overseas this year, including two during the regular season in Mexico and London, in an effort to connect with its growing number of fans around the globe. On the eve of the Clippers’ final game in China, Redick took some time to chat with SI.com regarding his experience abroad, the team's re-signing of center DeAndre Jordan and team owner Steve Ballmer.
SI.com: What’s the coolest experience you’ve had while you’ve been there?
J.J. Redick: "Definitely going to Hong Kong was a highlight. I went to the Ritz-Carlton, which has an open-air bar and lounge on the 118th floor. It’s like the highest hotel bar in the world, or something like that. The views were pretty incredible. I didn’t get this kind of overwhelming sense of being up higher than normal, than anything I’ve ever done. It’s partly because all of the other buildings in Hong Kong are almost that tall, too. I think there are something like 200 skyscrapers over 70 floors in Hong Kong. It was just an incredible skyline, and that was awesome. Honestly, my time in Shanghai has been a lot of fun, too. It’s a really awesome, awesome place. When I was here with the Magic in 2007, we stayed at a different Ritz-Carlton. We’re staying in Pudong right now, which is sort of like the financial district. This area is pretty awesome. When you kind of think of the iconic Shanghai skyline, it’s this area. Just down the street from us is the second-tallest building is the world, which is set to open, I believe, next month. Just being in this area has been pretty cool. Last night, I went to dinner and went over to The Bund area across the river and looked back towards the financial district and walked along the river for a little bit. Just getting to explore Shanghai has been awesome."
SI.com: How have the fans been there?
Redick: "They’re very passionate. They’re...I don’t know how to describe it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. [DeAndre Jordan], Doc [Rivers] and I went to an event for Tencent, which I think is the fourth-biggest tech company in the world by market cap, and they have something like 28,000 employees, and they have this big building. So, we get to tour their building, and there’s an event outside with a makeshift court set up. I’ve never been to an event like that. The people there, the fans, were just going crazy. It was packed. For us, DeAndre and I watched some people shoot basketballs on an outdoor court for 20 minutes, and then we got a tour of the building. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, the amount of people that were there for that.
"Tonight we went to practice, not even a real practice, just a shooting thing. We did a free-throw contest. a three-point contest, in an arena that we’re not even playing in—that’s not even where the game is. There were like 20,000 people there. It’s a big deal here. The NBA is a big deal here. From being here, and paying attention—eight years ago I didn’t really pay attention to anything that was going on around me. As an adult now, you see why this game is growing the way it’s growing, and why it’s becoming such a global game. A lot of that driving force is the fans in China."
SI.com: You were pictured next to Chris Paul during the trip, who was wearing a Chris Paul banana boat t-shirt. Where can I find one? Do you have one?
Redick: "I do not have one, and I have no idea where he got it from. It’s funny, because I sat there and talked to him that day for 20 minutes on the bus, in the team meeting, the team meal, before practice, and I didn’t even notice he was wearing the shirt until later on, when it kind of picked up some steam online. I think it’s pretty awesome. He’s CP3, he’s got his own little brand, maybe Jordan made it for him."
SI.com: You graded your offseason as an “F” when DeAndre Jordan left for Dallas. Now that he’s back, how would you grade the offseason now?
Redick: "I mean, we had no cap space, and we re-signed our best player that was a free agent, and we picked up Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, traded for Lance [Stephenson], Wes Johnson, Pablo Prigioni. We have 13 rotation players, so it’s definitely an A."
SI.com: What has Doc Rivers done to make DeAndre Jordan into the player that he is today?
Redick: "He’s pushed him in the right way and held him accountable, just like he holds all of his players accountable. That’s brought out the best in him. I think when you construct a roster, you want players to complement each other. I think as this core group of guys has moved forward, and I’ve joined that over the last couple of years, I think our strengths compliment each other, and I think [DeAndre] helps us a lot on the defensive end. Playing with Chris [Paul] and Blake [Griffin] is great for guys like [DeAndre] and myself."
SI.com: What stuck with you the most about the way you guys lost last year in the semifinals?
Redick: "I still haven’t figured it out. I tried to process it for a while, and it was one of those things where I couldn’t process it. To be that close to a conference final, and I haven’t played in a conference final since 2010, to be that close and to have a chance to compete against the team in basketball for the Western Conference championship would have been really, really exciting. I stopped processing it and kind of moved on with my summer. I get asked about it occasionally, but if anything, it’s just something that I’ve kind of compartmentalized and put away."
SI.com: Blake Griffin has already done so much in the league, and he’s only 26. Where do you think his game goes from here?
Redick: "He’s a very unique player, in terms of his ability to get to the rim, make midrange shots, handle the ball, pass out of double-teams, pass in transition and make reads on the fly. It seems like he’s taken a step forward in his game every year, so where he’s going to go? I have no idea. He’s a top-5 player, MVP level? Yeah, probably at some point in his career he’ll win an MVP and he’ll go down as one of the greatest power forwards ever. And if he wins, that certainly will happen."
• MORE NBA: How the Global Games helped NBA go international
SI.com: With a year under his belt, how is Steve Ballmer, the owner? Is he fun to play for?
Redick: "He’s great. He’s a great guy to be around. I would suspect 10-15 years from now he’ll be recognized as one of the best owners in sports."
SI.com: What does he do that makes him so good?
Redick: "He wants feedback from players, that’s the first thing. The second thing, is I think he thinks outside the box. The third thing is that he’s passionate. He cares, and he loves the game. I think all those things make him a great owner, and I think he’ll be a great owner for a long time."