By Matthew Curtis | Enzian Theater July 14, 2006 at 4:59AM
The Orlando Magic started their summer league play this week, a series of exhibition games (not open to the public) between teams primarily made up of rookies, walk-ons, free-agents, and rehabbing pros. Conspicuous in his absence was this year's first round draft pick (#11), Duke sharp-shooting guard J.J. Redick. If this guy gets open, it's lights out--Redick set so many shooting and scoring records during his distinguished college tenure it's not funny, including the most 3-pointers ever in a college career.
Unfortunately, and despite promises from JJ himself that he'd be ready to go, a "minor" back problem known as a herniated disk has sidelined him for the current time, and he's also given up his spot on the USA basketball squad set to begin practice this summer. Could it be a coincidence that the same day the announcement was made to the press about Redick going "no-show," the LA Dodgers announced that star closer Eric Gagne was having season-ending surgery to repair his herniated disk? The Magic, who have endured years of misery stemming from (former Dukie) Grant Hill's catastrophic ankle injury and major henia complications, still chose Redick in the draft knowing about his injury. At the time (just a few weeks ago), the company line was that they were comfortable with the doctor's evaluation and JJ would be ready to go for summer league play. This week's position is that real training camp doesn't start for another 3 months or so, and it's not worth the risk of putting him out there now. We'll see...
Magic fans have heard this song and dance before (in their nightmares), and I can only hope that management is right and they didn't blow this pick. We've been down this road once already with a great Duke player who was supposed to be physically fine according to the experts, as well as a number 11 draft pick who didn't even bother to leave his country to come play in the NBA (last year's selection, forward Fran Vasquez, is still in Spain).
When Babe Ruth was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees, Boston fans felt there was a curse on the team and the city which took over 8 decades to break. Let's hope the "Curse of the Shaq-ino" doesn't haunt us poor one-pro-sport Orlando hoops fans for a similar run of persecution--that would truly suck!