ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kevin Durant could barely find the rim in his first few Summer League outings. Greg Oden heard more whistles than a crossing guard. The two most-hyped members of the 2007 draft class are off to rocky starts, but they have plenty of catching up to do to experience the scrutiny of their predecessors in the rookie spotlight.
|J.J. Redick shot just 41 percent from the field in his first year. (Getty Images)|
When neither had immediate success, the criticism came from all directions. It didn't help that the entire 2006 rookie class was deemed disappointing, with some going as far as calling it the worst ever. Morrison and Redick became the face of that, too.
They were labeled busts before Christmas came around.
Morrison wound up starting just 23 of a possible 78 games and shot just 38 percent from the field. Scouts labeled him a defensive liability, and his rebound and assist numbers fell well below expectations. By his own estimation, he started listening to the critics far too much.
Chalk that up as the first, and perhaps most important, lesson he has learned.
"I'm just trying to be more, 'Don't worry about it,' I guess you could say, about what other people are saying," said Morrison, who averaged 11.8 points per game in 2006-07. "Some of the expectations are a little unrealistic for some of those rookies, but that's part of the system, part of the game and part of this business, so sometimes you have to learn not to pay attention to it.
"It's always good with any job to get a year under your belt and figure out the ropes. It's nice to look back and analyze what I need to work on, what I did good, and go from there."
Redick shot just 41 percent in his first year, which was in partly sabotaged because of a late start due to torn tissue in his foot. By the time he made his NBA debut on Nov. 25, some had already written off the No. 11 pick.
"I talked to Coach (Stan) Van Gundy about my rookie experience, and we talked about the fact that a team forms in training camp. Coach becomes comfortable with guys' abilities and what they bring to the table during training camp and during preseason, so I think missing that really hurt me," said Redick, who played in just 42 games. "I wasn't on the court. I never really got a chance to prove who I was, and when I did get good minutes, if you look at the games where I played over 20 minutes, I averaged 11 points a game, so it wasn't like I was horrible or anything. As the year got on, I got a few opportunities, but a coach ultimately is going to play whoever he's most comfortable with."
Redick never felt like he got into a comfort zone, so he has attacked this offseason as a new beginning. Completely healthy, the sharp-shooting guard came out as the focal point of Orlando's Summer League entry and shined, averaging just under 20 points per game and displaying his increased versatility.
Using change-of-pace dribbling and crafty handles, Redick was able to weave himself into the lane and get to the free throw line whenever he wanted. He'll be in the mix for minutes with Hedo Turkoglu, Trevor Ariza, Keyon Dooling and Keith Bogans opposite Rashard Lewis on the wing.
Morrison led Charlotte's entry in scoring despite playing just two games, part of the team's plan to ensure he stayed healthy yet sharp. New coach Sam Vincent is looking to implement more of an up-tempo style, which has Morrison looking forward to getting great looks in transition and not having to force as many shots as he did in his first go-round. Expect Morrison and Matt Carroll to see the bulk of the minutes behind the newly re-signed Gerald Wallace and key offseason acquisition Jason Richardson, who is expected to relieve some of the pressure on him.