Cam Reddish has had more than two and a half months to reflect on his rookie season, which the coronavirus pandemic cut short by 15 games when the NBA suspended play March 11.
Even with those remaining games outstanding, though, Reddish’s first season as a professional felt like a long one, and managing the wear and tear that comes with it was one of the biggest lessons he learned in Year 1.
“It’s pretty hectic, and the adjustment was a little crazy,” Reddish said. “But that was one of the biggest things I picked up on, how long the season was. I had to really take care of my body, eat the right things, stuff like that. … My entire life, I could pretty much just get up and go. And just play. But it’s a really long season. The games are long, you’ve got back-to-backs, you’re going from Miami to L.A., L.A. to Minnesota, it’s craziness. But it’s fun, once you get used to it, once you figure out your routine.”
With the season on hiatus, the 6-foot-8 wing has been staying in his Atlanta apartment and working out using the equipment he has on hand and, of course, running hills with his 7-month-old dog Storm to get some cardio in there (“She’s a handful,” Reddish added). On Monday, he made his first trip to the Hawks’ practice facility, which recently reopened now that shelter-in-place restrictions have eased.
It’s looking more and more like the NBA’s regular-season restart may omit teams, such as the Hawks, who are nearly eliminated from playoff contention, with ESPN reporting there’s growing support among ownership to resume play for 22 out of 30 teams in a campus scenario at Disney World in Orlando, which offers the league a more controlled environment.
If Reddish’s rookie season has indeed come to a close, he’s emerged with plenty of game experience, shouldering ample responsibility as a first-year player and a member of the Hawks’ “Core Five,” and a clear goal moving forward.
“I definitely want to be known as one of the best two-way players,” Reddish said.
General manager Travis Schlenk, for his part, has bragged on what Reddish showed on defense as a rookie: “He’s got a chance to be one of the best defensive players in the league. … His defensive versatility, being able to guard quicker point guards and kind of cover Trae (Young) on that end is going to be extremely important to us moving forward.”
Reddish established an identity as a quality defender early on, which usually is a slower-to-develop skill for rookies. But his offense was erratic and his 3-point shot was nowhere to be found his first stretch in the league, shooting 5.6% on 3’s in October and 27.9% in November; shooting 20.9% from the field in October, 32% in November and 35.9% in December.
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said in early November that Reddish was trying to “beat people with moves” instead of getting downhill and attacking the rim when his outside shot wasn’t falling.
A nagging groin injury that had bugged Reddish since his time at Duke (he had surgery over the summer, which caused him to miss Summer League) put him behind entering the season. As the season went on, he adjusted his routine to help adapt to the NBA — it wasn’t rocket science, just more sleep, more treatment, more film-watching, Reddish said. And, of course, more advice from Vince Carter, who helped him steady and take the “wet noodle” out of his shot.
“My first couple months, I didn’t even have a routine, I was still trying to figure that out,” Reddish said. “As time went on, I kind of figured it out, what works for me, and as it got toward the middle of the season I kind of figured it out, settled in and got a little more comfortable on and off the floor.”
His offense came with time, but in retrospect, Reddish is grateful for that setback, since it made him key in on defense from the get-go. Before his shot started to fall, that’s something he could hang his hat on.
“I think that’s why it was so tough at the beginning of the season, just trying to get my rhythm and my flow and stuff like that,” Reddish said. “It was a pain in the butt for a little bit, but I think everything happens for a reason, so I thank God for it. I think it made me a better defender, a better athlete. So it worked out for me.”
When at Duke and struggling through his groin injury, Reddish spent time working with Nick Potter, director of high performance and sports science for men’s basketball, which he credits for giving his defense a boost.
“I just think I was struggling so much on the offensive end (at the beginning of my rookie season), that you could only notice my defense, whereas in the past my offense was better than my defense, but in the beginning of the season, it was flipped,” Reddish said.
“I feel like I was a pretty good defender, but I don’t think I became a really good defender until I got to Duke, though. I got a lot better on that side of the floor at Duke. … I think it was just my groin injury that I had throughout the whole season. My guy Nick Potter, one of the trainers at Duke, we were doing so many slides and stuff trying to get my groin right, and I think I just got better because of it, and then obviously at practice all day we played defense, so I think that’s what took my defense to the next level.”
Reddish, who at 20 is the youngest player on the Hawks’ roster, takes pride in playing defense. As the season progressed, though, he brought more to the table on offense, averaging 11.9 points per game and shooting 40.3% on 3’s in January, averaging 13.4 points and shooting 44.1% from the field in February and averaging 17.5 points and shooting 47.6% on 3’s and 55.1% from the field over four games in March.
Overall, Reddish averaged 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game as a rookie, playing 26.7 minutes per game.
Building on that, as well as improving on defense, are Reddish’s goals moving forward (whenever that may be for the Hawks, who might end up having to wait for a delayed start to the 2020-21 season to play another game).
“Continuing to get after it on the defensive end,” Reddish said. “I enjoy it, I have a knack for it, so continuing to improve on that side of the ball. … Obviously, this year, I started out slow (on offense), but I picked it up toward the end, so just picking up where I left off.”
Reddish, who was just starting to find his footing when play was suspended, described this season (in which the Hawks went 20-47, going 12-15 from Jan. 14-March 11 after an 8-32 start) as a “growth year” for the exceedingly young team, but he thinks they have the right pieces to take a step forward next season.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us, to be honest with you,” Reddish said. “We have all the pieces that it takes to be a really good team in the NBA. Obviously with Trae being Trae, we have good size all around, and I think adding (center Clint Capela) into the lineup is going to help a lot. Obviously added some veteran guys to us, so that always helps. I think next year’s going to be a really good year for us, and I’m looking forward to it.”
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