Redd alert: Bucks won't be that bad

After three years of coming off the bench, Michael Redd is ready to join the Bucks' starting five.

Updated: October 8, 2003, 3:11 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com

Editor's note: ESPN.com is once again visiting all 29 NBA teams during training camp and the preseason. The tour continues with a report on the Milwaukee Bucks.

Michael Redd and Allan Houston
Michael Redd, left, says the Bucks will actually play some D for a change.
MEMPHIS -- Three years ago, Michael Redd was a second-round draft pick with a one-year, make-good contract and few hopes of gaining NBA stardom.

Redd spent the season begging for table scraps from Milwaukee's Big Three -- Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell. He sat and watched as those Bucks came close to going to the NBA Finals.

Then he saw it all fall apart. In just a little over a year, Robinson, Allen, Cassell and Gary Payton were gone. This summer, coach George Karl was the last domino to fall.

When the season begins for the Bucks on October 29, Redd will have a very unusual distinction. He'll step into the season as a veteran and the team's most prolific scorer from last season at just a tick over 15 points per game.

"It's weird man," Redd said. "Those guys aren't here and here I am. That just goes to show you that anything is possible in the NBA."

This season, Redd, along with young players like Desmond Mason, Tim Thomas and rookie T. J. Ford will be asked to deliver more than hope and potential to long suffering fans in Milwaukee. Rookie head coach Terry Porter says he expects his team to compete for the playoffs.

"I don't care if we're young," Porter said. "What I care about is, are we good?"

Porter is preaching defense (a historic Bucks weakness) and rebounding (another annual problem) to his group of young Bucks.

"I want us to have the mindset of going out and playing the way we need to play every night," Porter said. "We have enough veterans on this team. We have some talent. We've got to go out and set a tone."

If Porter wants a poster child for hard work, he has to look no further than Redd.

Redd had two top-notch years at Ohio State before pulling out of school and declaring for the 2000 NBA draft. Redd believed he would be a first-round pick. After he slipped to the second round, Redd became determined to prove everyone wrong. He approached Karl before summer league and asked him what he needed to do to make it in the NBA.

"Coach said that if I was going to play two guard, I had to shoot the ball well," Redd said. "I decided I was going to be a shooter."

That was no small feat for a guy who had the reputation as being just an OK shooter. Redd went back to his high school gym in Columbus, Ohio, and shot thousands of shots every day. After his second year, he shot the ball well enough to get a big contract offer from the Mavericks. The Bucks matched and Redd, in just one more season, made Allen expendable.

Redd's 43.8 percent shooting on 3-pointers ranked second in the league last season. He already ranks third in the league in career 3-point shooting. He's turned into a good defender and takes care of the ball on offense, and he ranked third in the NBA last season with 1.35 steals per turnover. He was also a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year honors.

This year, Redd is hoping his work ethic and shooting touch will finally win him the starting job at shooting guard.

We're going to surprise people this year ... We'll be more defensive-minded than ever before. I think people are really underestimating us. I don't think it's wise.
Michael Redd

Redd's competition will be Mason. The ex-Sonic is a better athlete and defender, but Mason's lack of a perimeter shot (he shot just 29.2 percent on threes last season) may hurt his chances of beating out Redd.

While he didn't start in the Bucks' preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies, Redd did finish the game with a team-high 21 points and shot 50 percent on 3-pointers.

During the game, Redd's shooting was giving Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown fits. "You can't leave him open," Brown screamed at the defense. "He's killing us."

After the game, Porter made it clear that the starting two job was still up for grabs. "Both guys give us something different," Porter said. "I'm still evaluating who fits best."

Later, Porter said Redd would get a chance to start in the preseason. That brought a smile to Redd's face.

"If it happens, it will be a dream come true," Redd said. "If it doesn't, I've just got to keep showing coach that I'm dedicated to the game."

Under either scenario, Redd is still determined to turn the haters into believers.

"We're going to surprise people this year," he said. "Our young guys have a few years under our belt and T.J. just plays older. We'll be more defensive-minded than ever before. I think people are really underestimating us. I don't think it's wise."

Given Redd's underdog history, he might be right.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN.com's ESPN Insider.

Chad Ford

Senior Writer, NBA Insider