PHILADELPHIA — J.J. Redick plans his meals, his naps, his shots and, well in advance of wearing them, even his socks. He eats the same kind of granola bar before every game. He has built a high-level career out of this mind-numbing preparation.
“It’s the only way I know how to be,” he said.
It is hard to catch him off-guard, as his coach, Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers, learned one night last summer. He was wooing Redick to the team and, as part of his pitch, he invited him onto the court with Joel Embiid, the team’s talented young center.
It turns out Redick had armed himself ahead of the meeting with a mental dossier of plays he had envisioned running with the likes of Embiid. Redick, still wearing a blazer, picked and popped for jump shots, while Brown salivated at the possibilities for the team.
“He’s as professional as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Brown said.
Redick, perhaps the most meticulous man in the NBA, joined the Sixers on a one-year deal worth US$23 million, and he has had a profound effect on the team, which is zooming toward the playoffs after five straight losing seasons.
As a 33-year-old shooting guard, Redick has assembled one of the most productive seasons of his 12-year career. Through Tuesday, he was averaging a career-best 16.7 points a game while shooting 45 per cent from the field and 41.2 per cent from three-point range.
But in explaining his success, Redick cited the monotony of his daily routine. He has an insatiable desire for structure. He finds joy in the mundane.
“As you progress as a basketball player, the world around you becomes more and more chaotic,” Redick said. “There’s more talent, there are more distractions — and these are all factors that create a lack of control. By having a routine, by having habits that I can fall back on, it’s my way of enacting control. It’s the only thing I can control.”
Redick has what he describes as obsessive-compulsive “tendencies.” To be clear, he said, he has never been given a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He has friends, he said, who struggle with the disorder, and he was loath to minimize their condition by comparing himself to them.
But he has always been drawn to order. As a child, he sorted his toys by colour and shape. As an adult, he organizes his closet with military-grade precision.
“My closet is my happy place,” he said.
Consider his off-season, when he trains six days a week but reserves his most meticulous workout for Sunday. On that day, he forces himself to make 342 shots — no more, no less. Redick settled on the number years ago based on a series of shots from different spots on the court, and he has never wavered.
Every Sunday, throughout the summer, without exception: 342.
“That’s pretty weird,” said T.J. McConnell, a reserve guard with the 76ers. “I didn’t know that.”
Redick, though, is just as exacting on game days, calibrating many of his routines to the minute — and some to the second.
“You know what it is? It’s exhausting,” Redick said. “It’s so exhausting.”
A trip through Redick’s schedule ought to come with a spreadsheet. If the 76ers have a game at 7 p.m., Redick arrives for the team’s morning shootaround at 9 a.m., eats a light breakfast, then hops in the hot tub for five minutes. (“I set a timer,” he said.) He follows that by spending 15 minutes with Todd Wright, an assistant coach in charge of the team’s strength and conditioning program, to loosen up before hitting the court.
Once Brown concludes the team’s workout, Redick completes the same shooting routine that he has done for the past nine seasons: 35 spot-up jumpers from different locations along the three-point line, 28 three-pointers off the dribble, four catch-and-shoot three-pointers from each wing, and 10 free throws. (Redick counts makes — not attempts.)
After 15 minutes in the weight room, Redick jumps in the hot tub for three minutes, the cold tub for 12 minutes, and then the hot tub for another three minutes. Rashard Lewis, a former teammate on the Orlando Magic, once told Redick that the cold tub was the “the fountain of youth.”
“So it stuck with me,” Redick said.
His work at the gym completed, Redick eats lunch and then naps from 2 to 4 p.m. At this stage of his career, he said, he is an expert napper and can fall asleep within five minutes.
When the 76ers are at home, Redick eats his pregame meal — roasted chicken, baked potato, asparagus or broccoli, and a cup of coffee — at Wells Fargo Center. But when the 76ers are on the road, Redick calls ahead to have it delivered to his hotel room at 4:30 p.m. This is important. He recalled with no small sadness the afternoon of March 22, 2013, back when he was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were in Indianapolis to face the Pacers, and Redick’s dinner arrived 20 minutes late.
“It completely threw me off,” said Redick, who wound up shooting 1 of 11 from the field in a 24-point loss.
But for all the intricacies of Redick’s daily rituals, he is even more rigid in the 90 minutes before the opening tip. Most players have pregame routines. But Redick has elevated it to high art: His routines have routines.
“Once 90 hits on the clock, it is on,” he said.
He starts by spending 25 to 30 minutes with Scott Epsley, the team’s physiotherapist, who focuses on Redick’s hips, ankles and shoulders.
Redick then does about 15 minutes of dynamic stretching with Wright, the strength coach. Redick cycles through six devices — dumbbells, a weighted tube, a balancing plate, a large inflatable ball, a blue cushion and an elastic band — before he picks up two basketballs and holds each aloft as he crosses his right leg over his left leg, then vice versa. Redick said the maneuver ignites his hips.
“I think it’s a yoga pose,” he said. “Isn’t it a yoga pose? Something close to a yoga pose?”
He proceeds to shoot for six minutes, another nuanced routine that he caps by sinking consecutive “game-winners,” as he calls them — the first moving to his left, the second to his right.
He returns to the locker room with about 35 minutes and five seconds showing on the countdown clock, giving himself seconds to spare before Brown delivers his pregame talk. Redick grabs two heat packs, an electrolyte drink and the same type of granola bar that he has been consuming before every game since 2012.
“It tastes like cardboard at this point,” he said.
When the 76ers head back to the court for their layup line, Redick sticks with the same steady buildup of activity. The same two right-handed layups. The same hip stretches along the sideline. The same dribbling drill. The same sprint to the corner after player introductions.
“It goes back to having control and putting things in place that put me at ease,” Redick said. “If you don’t have those mechanisms, then you don’t have that foundation — that solid place that you can always go back to if you’re struggling.”
It is especially important, he said, because games are cluttered with craziness. Even then, Redick searches for patterns — and his teammates look for them, too. For example, if McConnell drives to the baseline, he knows that Redick tends to slide to the opposite corner for an open look. Or if McConnell pushes the ball on a fast break, Redick will often trail the play so McConnell can shuffle the ball to him at the three-point line.
“This is not stuff that we just made up,” Brown said. “It’s stuff we drill and talk about.”
Redick splits his time between Philadelphia and Brooklyn, where he has a home with his wife, Chelsea, and their two sons, Knox, 3, and Kai, 1. Redick has already seen signs, he said, that his habits might be hereditary. Whenever he is home in Brooklyn, Redick wakes up with Kai at around 6 a.m., makes coffee and prepares Kai’s bottle before they watch an episode of Team Umizoomi, an animated children’s program with robots.
“We do that every single morning,” Redick said. “If I change up the routine, he loses his mind.”