Richard Jefferson close to solving offensive problems
AT&T CENTER — Richard Jefferson no longer looks unsure on this San Antonio Spurs team. Every step and every dribble oozes with intent. Every head fake and dribble has a purpose. When his body moves, it knows exactly why it’s doing what it is. Everything appears in sync.
Looking a the box scores, though, and you wouldn’t believe it. 2-9 from the field and eight points at Houston in the first preseason game. 3 for 7 and 11 points a couple of nights later against the Heat. 2-7 for five points against the Clippers in Mexico City. 2-3 and six points against Caja Laboral on Saturday night. And 3-8 for 12 points on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Those numbers bear resemblance to the averages RJ put up in his disappointing first season with the Spurs.
Though his stat lines don’t paint the picture of improvement in Jefferson’s offensive game, the intent is there. The six free throws Jefferson shot against the Heat and seven he earned versus the Thunder point to the small forward’s honed-in aggressiveness.
“I’ve been here a little over a year and I’m still getting more and more comfortable,” Jefferson said after San Antonio’s 111-102 loss to the Thunder. “I’m going to get more comfortable in the offense, just like everyone else, especially as we get used to each other.”
If Jefferson is at all uncomfortable on offense for the Spurs, it doesn’t show. His summer of working with head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Chad Forcier fine-tuned his reactions in the system when the Spurs have the ball.
Is the defender off-balance when he catches the ball on the wing? It’s to the rim or bust.
Is his man giving him space or late rotating on the perimeter? He’s finally shooting the jumper with no hesitation.
Jefferson is also correctly positioned on the floor more often than not this preseason. He’s returned to the 3-point line when located away from the ball, instead of a step inside the arc like last season, when he threw off San Antonio’s spacing and made it easier for his defenders to help inside. Once the shots start to fall and he raises his 33% shooting from the 3-point line, every Spur on the court will be that much harder to guard against.
“You feel more and more comfortable and that’s what the preseason is for, but when the regular season comes and you’re playing back-to-back games and four games in five nights, that will be the true test of how your shot feels,” Jefferson said.
Think of Richard Jefferson’s game like a math equation. The Spurs don’t just want him to stumble across the right answer (or score points), they want him to figure out the process of how to get that answer and show his work. Right now, Jefferson is close to figuring out that equation. He’s got to carry the two and divide the remainder and follow the order of operations, all that good stuff. Once he does that, he can come up with the right answer, game after game.
For better or worse, Jefferson is not impatient to get where he needs to. He knows that despite the improvement he’s showing, there’s still a ways to go.
“A lot of times when I score points, it’s off of playing with my teammates, but it’s still going to take years to get used to,” Jefferson said.
But even with performing better in preseason, Jefferson realizes it’s going to take more to impress even the most optimistic of Spurs fans.
“It’s all about what you do when the bright lights are shining.”