Richard Jefferson, Savvy Businessman


When Manu Ginobili plays basketball, he plays with a rose between his teeth. His game is all skill and charm and sizzle.  Falling in love with Manu Ginobili’s game really means falling in love.

The story with Richard Jefferson is different. Accepting RJ as a Spur is a little like inviting your drunk uncle — the brother your mother hates — to your mom’s birthday party. Everyone knows it will end badly, but he is her brother. He should be there, right?

Forgive the hyperbole; Jefferson isn’t nearly so bad. But he was an awful fit for the Spurs last season, and the Spurs just shelled out 38.9 million over 4 years to keep their bad fit in tow. What are we to make of it?

To start, Richard Jefferson’s decision to opt out of his contract was brilliant. Yes, brilliant.

When Jefferson announced his opt-out, he became the butt of too many easy jokes. Sports journalist and hoops bloggers were quick to accuse Jefferson of stupidity for walking away from 15 million in guaranteed money. Why would he do that? Didn’t he learn from the career mistakes of Latrell Sprewell and Bonzi Wells?

Turns out that Jefferson knew more than his critics: he just parlayed 15 million into 38. With a possible lockout and a more frugal CBA looming large on the horizon, Jefferson has locked himself into more guaranteed money over the next 4 years than he would have made otherwise. Credit Jefferson with a shrewd move and big score.

The Spurs also score a win here, but not without qualification.

From the Spurs perspective, Richard Jefferson was the best FA wing left on the market. So resigning him was a matter of capitalizing on the best available option. But, from what I can tell, Jefferson was not getting offers from other teams that approached the Spurs’ offer. Strange that in a summer when the Spurs signed Tiago Splitter to a terrific under-market-value contract, they would overpay for Matt Bonner, and, perhaps, dramatically overpay for Richard Jefferson.  The Spurs gave Jefferson a sweet deal.

It’s still a win for the Spurs. They’re now in a position to avoid tax penalties, and they’ve returned as much talent to their roster as fans could reasonably expect, given their payroll constraints.

But the Spurs’ re-signing of Richard Jefferson leaves fans with two nagging questions.

Will Richard Jefferson commit himself to defense, accepting a roll as San Antonio’s primary wing stopper? He brought very little to the Spurs’ team defense last season — he was underwhelming at best and spent most of the season missing rotations or seeming out of place. We’ll give Jefferson a mulligan, citing a steep first year learning curve in a difficult system. But Jefferson must show marked improvement in this area.

The other question concerns Jefferson’s shooting. The Spurs need Jefferson to space the floor with reliable three point shooting, especially from the corners. Hopefully, Jefferson can improve upon his .316 mark from last season, but his career mark of .348 suggests that lower expectations are in order. Still, the question remains: will Richard Jefferson emerge as a reliable, floor spacing shooter for the Spurs?

  • Sam

    I think the resigning of Jefferson is a great thing. If he was able to withstand a horrible season in which he averaged 12ppg, which there are many teams that would kill for that kind of contributor, it wasn’t the kind of scoring that changed the game which is what we needed. I think that if RJ can become a defender of mediocre caliber we will be alright or at least he can run shooters of the 3pt line we will be fine. Also what is the outlook for the spurs using the rest of the MLE or the full LLE exception to get a Matt Barnes or just another body for quality minutes? I bleed Black and Silver I will be a Spurs fan till the end. GO SPURS GO !!! Shock the world (Moreover shock L.A. and Miami) So that an old dog can still fight.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Well, talk about expectations. Good to see him back, although I woulda paid him a little less. Who knows, maybe he’ll make fools of us all and throw down on a 14/6 with 39% 3’s and 85% Bruce Bowen D.

    Or not. It’s put up or shut up time, Big J.

  • Kalis

    The “bad fit” argument is getting very tiring. Do you really believe that Popovich is either stupid or stubborn enough to not adjust the system to his players, especially now that he knows RJ will be a part of it for the next 3 years?

    If Parker gets extended (big if, I know), then the core of Duncan/Parker/Ginobili/RJ/Hill/Splitter/Blair/Anderson? will be with the Spurs for the next 3 years, allowing Popovich to revamp the Spurs’ system to fit the styles of his players.

  • BV

    Hope the last yr is partially guaranteed. Basically the Spurs way overpaid. I would have given him 3 yrs at the midlevel exception or a little more – after all which other team would be looking to sign him at this point? The Spurs were his only option.

    That said, I am hopeful he performs better now that he has “corporate knowledge” after a year with the Spurs.

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  • Jonathan

    You forgot to mention that, in addition to his poor defense and inability to space the floor with accurate 3-point shooting, Jefferson can’t create shots for himself either. The details of the contract are ridiculous and depressing. Fourth year fully guaranteed Player Option!

  • Francesco

    Enough about Jefferson!
    Who is our 3point shooter?

    Duncan, by his own admission, is actually a pretty good shooter from the arc… I wonder if, now that we have Splitter, Pop will ever run a non-clutch play for TD to let it fly.
    Tim, replacing Bonner as our stretch-4… Bonkers, I know!…
    Still, sometimes I wish we could have Don Nelson as an assistent coach, you know, to mix it up on offence when things stagnate.

  • DorieStreet

    With the resigning of Jefferson and Bonner, it leaves little doubt that the Spurs are relying on these two to improve their games, vs. bringing in other free agents in their place (and perhaps go through a learning curve that Jefferson with through last season). It seems to me the franchise decided that injuries was the main factor in the team struggling to get the 7th spot in the playoffs. This is the last run at a title with the core 3 (that’s why Parker wasn’t traded). The staff looks at this group as capable, with the addition of Splitter and the young nucleus (Gee, Hairston, Temple) to the roster (sans Bogans and Mason). I have my doubts, especially with Duncan’s offensive production decreasing. Come October we will see how the squad looks to the fans.

  • Alix Babaie

    I think the Spurs should have offered the 4 years @ $32 million, with the last year a team option. R-Jeff has a lot to prove in earning that crazy new amount but I am pleased that next year only counts $8.4 million against the cap. They just signed Gary Neal to a 3 year deal, so that takes care of the sharpshooter role player, so forget about Barnes or any other swingman coming over. The Spurs should turn their sites to signing a center….I personally think they need to sign concentrate on playing lock down D, grinding it out against teams like they used to….and signing Shaq to start in limited minutes (15-20 per game) until Tiago is fully acclimated. Shaq, while not a pick and roll defender, can still clog the paint and intimidate with Timmy next to him down low, while rebounding and throwing down some slams. Get him for 2 years and the $2.4 million per year remaining of the MLE. Holt will love him too because he puts asses in the seats which is what they need considering how much they paid for R-Jeff.

  • SAS

    Gary Neal signed a three year guaranteed contract with the San Antonio Spurs, his agent David Bauman confirms.

  • Firebrand

    WOW that is a fat contract for a guy that… well what did Jefferson do last year I forget . I was too busy clawing out my eyeballs every time he touched the ball….. ok that was a little much . It was like the hawks giving Joe Johnson a max deal after his inglorious performance in the playoffs last year. I like R.J. dont get me wrong and I am positive he is going to perform better this year but an average of just under 10 million a year too much I say.

  • Firebrand

    @ Alix Babaie

    I am also all for Shaq to be our bruiser down low. unfortunately from what I have been reading the big aristotle is looking for a contract more in line with the full mle so i don’t know if he is willing to be paid half as much to go to the spurs. If we can get Shaq for the 2.4 million we have left I would be ok with that ….. If we could convince another team to sign him and then trade them Mcdyess for Shaq I would also be ok with that.

  • spursbaby

    richard jefferson might have had a decent year instead of a fabulous one however, r.j averaged 12 points a game this season and thats more than anybody the spurs have had playing his position. rj will be an awesome fit! all we need is one more piece and i have a feeling r.c has one last trick up his sleeve! go spurs go!

  • Francesco

    @ Alix Babaie

    “They just signed Gary Neal to a 3 year deal, so that takes care of the sharpshooter role player”

    Alex, come on, we need someone who can drain 3s in tough playoff battles, not during summer league…
    Maybe one day Neal will be that player, but not next year.

  • Francesco

    My humble opinion is: Shaq would bring some positives, but more negatives, and I am not talking about any off court issues.
    Now that we have Splitter, what’s the point of Shaq?
    For our team and our needs, would Shaq be better than McDyess?
    Shaq could be useful for some 15 minutes a game if we had a team full of shooters…
    Instead we have TP and Manu who both need room under the rim to penetrate in order to be effective.

  • Tom Armstrong

    Hoopsworld is saying that we signed Gary Neal to a 3 year deal…if so, there’s the 3 point shooter we need!

    Now get a little “d” and about 15 points a game from jefferson and we will be OK!

  • quincyscott

    Why do I get the feeling I’m going to read essentially this same article eighteen times before the season begins? Enough already. These questions will still “remain” for a long time, and gnashing our teeth about it every other day will not make Jefferson fit in better. Let’s root for him to have a better year and see how it pans out.

  • Francesco

    Taken for granted that we have decided to keep the core together to go for 1 or 2 last rounds, I wonder who does the front office considers untradable, and who would they be ready to part with for a really reliable 3point shooter.

    Hill, Temple, Anderson, Gee, Neal, Hairston, Jefferson, Bonner, Blair, McDyess…
    During the next 2 years, is any of them, by himself, irreplaceable in the hunt for the ring?

    I mean, is it possible that out of all of them we can’t put together a trade for a battle tested sniper?

  • Firebrand


    The room under the rim is a good point but im pretty sure the big man knows how to get out of the way he was doing it for D wade and Kobe all those years. I also think that us getting Splitter makes Mcdyess redundant on our roster and that Shaq is a perfect fit for our half court set type of offense. I am expecting Tiago to be more of an energy and shooting touch kinda guy than a banger under the rim and at this point in Tim’s career any help he can get under there is a positive so that is why I say Shaq it up!

  • doggydogworld

    @ Alix Babaie – pretty sure Neal’s contract ate part of that 2.4m MLE we had. We still have 1.9m LLE.

  • Firebrand

    @ Francesco

    Good question idk if I would trade a veteran sharpshooter for any of these guys lol. I would assume there would be some interest in Hill and Blair because they are young talents with upside that have shown some good skills so far. As for Temple, Anderson, Gee, Neal, Hairston I would not think anyone of them has proven himself enough to be worth a trade for a proven vet based on skill alone. Some teams might have interest in Bonner ….. to finish it up Mcdyess is too old at this point he is no longer the coveted bench player he once was and R.J. would have to have a great bounce back year to justify his almost 10 mil a year salary.

  • Francesco

    @ Firebrand

    Sure, a 1 for 1 trade would be next to impossible, but what if you did a 3 for 1 or a 4 for 1.
    Purely hypotetically and with no actual trade in mind: Hill+Anderson+Bonner+Mcdyess.
    You would give the other team a good mix of youth, potential, proven players, money, expiring contracts….
    I don’t know, maybe there just isn’t a team with that sniper… I’m gonna check out rosters tonight!

  • Mr. Anonymous

    Are you fucking kidding me? Nearly $40 mln for Princess Peanut?

    Who exactly were we bidding against that drove his price up so high?

  • Roberto SA

    Richard Jefferson is a smart man, turning 15 to 38 was a smart move by him. I think this impacts the Spurs roster greatly. Richard jefferson, James Anderson, and Alonzo Gee should be a great rotation for the 3 spot in the spurs offense.

  • BlaseE

    A third question I have for RJ: will be more capable of playing the 4 this season in a small ball situation? If we are down 6 with limited time, Pop needs to be able to field Manu, Parker, Hill, RJ, and Duncan and trust them.

    Also RJ is getting 27 million over the first 3 years. That puts his 4th year as a giant 12 million expiring for a 34/35 year old. The Spurs have parlayed RJ’s almost too large to trade 16 million expiring into a 12 million after the Duncan window is closed. That is pretty savvy.

  • BlaseE

    Also, if we are under the tax, RJ might have saved Holt 14 million this year. It’s possible Holt agreed or at the very least discussed with RJ prior to his opting out just to get them both in a better situation. I think this is good for the Spurs.

    14 million/4 years = 3.5 million

    39/4=9.8 million average over his 4 years

    9.8 million might be overpriced but 6.3 seems reasonable for a starting SF. The only thing we lost was the chance to trade his expiring contract this season.

  • cruzerld


    I agree with your logic, but I look at it a different way. The Spurs were supposedly going to pay $22M for RJ this coming year, including the tax. RJ would have only gotten $15M.

    If you look at his 4 year contract as a 3 yr/$30M contract (which would include a rough 2-3 million dollar buyout for the last year) then that means the Spurs get RJ for 2 more years at $4M per year and can either buy him out when Tim is gone or trade him to try to rebuild with new players / picks. RJ wins b/c he gets all the money the Spurs would have paid in luxury tax, as well as the long term deal he wanted.

    For everyone arguing that we paid too much, we probably had already negotiated this deal with him before opting out (it wasn’t tampering before the deadline since he was under contract with the Spurs at the time). The Spurs stuck to this deal because they aren’t shady like Carlos Boozer, because it made sense … and because you don’t want to anger agents. RJ is happy. Spurs turned a luxury tax payment into possibly being under the luxury tax (which allowed them to sign Splitter, something they may have been hesitant to do otherwise). And they give RJ a chance to really figure out the system without so much pressure.

    It makes financial sense. And if RJ plays better than last year then it will make basketball sense too. Time will tell I guess.

  • Dr. Who


    “The only thing we lost was the chance to trade his expiring contract this season.”

    That’s what made me throw up a little when he decided to opt out. That was a huge carrot. Teams were all over the large expirings last year. Maybe Pop just loves the guy?

    The other thing is tying yourself with long term contracts to subpar players like Bonner and RJ. RJ could probably flourish on another team and Bonner is just a bench stretch floor. I understand why we made the moves but why so long contracts (yes I know because that’s what the player wanted). Most important though, who is RJ’s agent? That dude is awesome, he could probably get a government permit to drill in Alaska using baby seals. Or… perhaps RJ has pictures of Pop and Finley together in Jamaica. One never knows.

  • Sarge

    Genius move by… RJ. I suspect that there were other offers on the table for him. Someone would bite at 7- or 8-ish million, and we really couldn’t afford to lose RJ given the state of the SF market right now.

    As for the front office, they really didn’t have a whole lot of choice on this one. You either do what it takes to get back your best option for the ‘3’ position, or you let him walk and end up scrambling to find an inferior replacement.

    I’m looking forward to next season. I don’t think Jefferson was as bad as some made him out to be. He was just horribly inconsistent. Several terrible games, but some absolutely phenomenal ones as well. I suspect he’ll be pretty decent this year.

  • Jaceman

    Arguably the best wing left available. I would argue that Jefferson is the last wing left available that we could’ve afforded. I would also argue that Josh Howard is better.

  • Dr. Who

    Forgot to give Varner props for a pretty funny article. Great work!

    Made me spit up my coffee a bit with the drunk uncle comparision. Funny stuff. The difference is, when the party is over, said drunk uncle actually goes home and peace is restored. Or… he passes out on the couch after making everyone mad and then we get out the Sharpie and go Picasso on him :) With that contract, if RJ has another lackluster season, we’ll be looking for the Sharpies!

  • SAJKinBigD

    @ Jaceman – Living in Dallas, I can tell you the following:
    Josh Howard = Nutjob.
    Talent? Yup.
    Basketball IQ? Not so much.
    Health? Um… Depends on how much of a hangover he had the previous night or if he’s messin’ with the ganjah again. Oh, and then there’s the knee injury from February.
    Finally, didja know that J-Ho is about 2 months older than RJ? Wow…

  • annie

    what are the Spus thinking?

    Coming back with essentially the same team that got swept in the playoffs?

    So struggling to make the playoffs- is this theway Duncan’s last years in the NBA are going to be?

    Hopefully I am wrong about this

  • Frustrated

    I can’t believe we paid 38 million for Richard Jefferson…. While I really like the other moves made by the spurs this offseason, this contract seems to contradict all of that. What puzzles me most is that there are two other players who have a shot at being as productive, if not better, for a much smaller price still on the market that would seemingly fit this team better.

    Option a) Matt Barnes. We probably could have gotten him for what was left of the mid level exception and played him at small forward. While his career 3pt % is lower than Jefferson’s, he would quickly become the teams new Bruce Bowen and would gladly take up the role of defensive stopper.

    Option b) Tracy McGrady. While this is a bigger gamble with all of his health problems, if he has in fact worked enough to become healthy again this offseason, he would have fit the team like a glove. While its shocking as a spurs fan to think about him on our team after the infamous 13 points in 30 seconds, he can certainly create his own shot and can really heat up from the arc. He would also likely play for little money just for a chance to prove himself this season and play for a contender.

  • Hoopster

    I was all for resigning RJ, however at a much more discounted rate. The only thing I can think of is he and the FO had already figured the deal out before he opted out. I am very confident that he did not receive a similar offer anywhere else. Of course we could not go out and spend that money on anyone else so he kind of held all the cards on this deal. I would have liked for the 4th year to have been a partial guarantee or team option but oh well we are stuck with him and Bonner for the next 4 years and they will cost roughly 13 mill per. WOW!Just too much. Jokerson better play a whole lot better than he did last year, and he better not start complaining when TP is ballhogging and he can’t get in a flow playing with TP.
    TP will probably be our leading scorer this season since he will definitely be looking to put up great numbers for his next contract and I just do not want to hear any griping from Jokerson!

  • Marc

    Wonder what is Splitter thinking about after Bonner and RJ signings?
    Anyway we’ll never understand the reason of the 40m/4yrs… but if he will not be traded, i think Pop really trusts the guy.. is there any possibility of system changing to match Jefferson type of play? now the spurs have a pretty quick and fast team with TP, Manu, RJ, Splitter and Hill..
    i don’t know i just wish that Amundson can join the team and i can call it a day (or a summer).

  • Jesse Blanchard

    The Spurs were, in fact, competing with other big offers. They were competing with the $15 million deal he opted out of. I’m pretty sure he does not opt out unless the Spurs promised him what he signed for. A couple things…he still appears to have the athleticism, the reason we got him. So then it would seem just figuring out how to use it. He can’t be any worse than last year next season. And who knows, maybe with Tiago, Anderson, and Neal we will have enough players that can operate and pass on the move, allowing us to devaite from our pick and roll sets in favor of some more motion sets.

  • The Horse

    Since everyone always refers to Gee, Temple, and Hairston together, can they just be grouped as Geempleston?

  • BlaseE

    @ Jesse
    According to DE, Neal and Anderson are both pick and roll specialists in a way. Anderson had the most experience of all SF’s in the draft at running the pick and roll.

    I know it doesn’t win championships but RJ and Bonner are both really good guys and great locker room presences. We need guys who are comfortable with each other and feel like a team to win, and I think Pop and the big 3 are comfortable with Bonner and RJ. I like to be proud of the class of the Spurs roster as a Spurs fan. (The charges were dropped against Neal.)

  • marcos4303

    I was always against trading TP unless it was for Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Go figure, Chris Paul is demmanding a trade. How about join forces between the 2 best Wake Forest alumni?

  • td4life

    Back-door agreements aside, there is still no excuse for overpaying for Matt Bonner, even if we actually faced outside competition in bidding for his services. Can’t we trade him???


    RJ will be better at making his defensive rotations and has good size and athelticism, but I don’t think he’s gonna become a hungry and focused defender (or dedicated and passionate at either end, really). Manu is our only real play-maker that can facilitate RJ’s natural game. I’m not expecting a whole lot from Jefferson.
    “An awesome fit”?!? I’m more excited about “Geemelpleston”.

    Mainly, I am looking forward to seeing Tiago + TD and Tiago + Manu. Can’t wait to see more of Hill and Blair, and would love to see Neal, Anderson, or Temple earn a key role and a productive 18-24mpg by season’s end. I just wish we were contenders.

    RJ is an average player, but maybe these young guys an become can provide some real on-court advantages for the Spurs.

  • John

    I think that there’s no question that we overpaid for Jefferson. However, I also think it was something that was agreed to before Jefferson even opted out. If the Spurs were just going to pay him market value, there’s no way that Jefferson would have opted out in the first place; I imagine the conversation went something like:

    Spurs: How much would we have to pay you long-term to get you to opt out and get you to take a pay cut in the short-term so that we aren’t burning money to the luxury tax?
    Jefferson: $40M over 4 years?
    Spurs: How about $38M?
    Jefferson: K.

  • Jim Henderson

    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:59 am

    “who does the front office considers untradable, and who would they be ready to part with for a really reliable 3point shooter.

    Hill, Temple, Anderson, Gee, Neal, Hairston, Jefferson, Bonner, Blair, McDyess…”

    I would NOT trade Hill or Blair on that list.

    “I also think that us getting Splitter makes Mcdyess redundant on our roster and that Shaq is a perfect fit for our half court set type of offense.”

    Yes, McDyess is somewhat redundant with the addition of Splitter, but Shaq is not the answer. We need a younger, high energy guy that rebounds, defends, blocks shots, and is happy with 15 mpg. And as I’ve been saying for weeks on this blog, that guy is Lou Amundson, still an unrestricted FA, and it’s conceivable that he would go for either the rest of the MLE (if we still have, but nobody knows because we don’t have any contract DETAILS on the Neal signing), or the LLE.

    “……a banger under the rim…..”

    Our “banger” under the rim is Blair.

    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 am

    “@ Alix Babaie – pretty sure Neal’s contract ate part of that 2.4m MLE we had. We still have 1.9m LLE.”

    You may be right, but it would sure be nice to get an official confirmation — soon. I can’t imagine that it would be a drawn out negotiation.

    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:31 am


    I wouldn’t give all those players for ANY one shooter in the league.

    Roberto SA
    July 22nd, 2010 at 8:04 am

    “Richard jefferson, James Anderson, and Alonzo Gee should be a great rotation for the 3 spot in the spurs offense.”

    It’s highly unlikely that Gee is on the active roster over Hairston.

  • Dr. Who


    Barnes is being offered 3.5MM/year from the Cavs and he wants more. If he doesn’t get it he’s going on the cheap to the Lakers. He’s not ours for the taking. We only had the remaing MLE which was only a shade above 2MM and the LLE to offer. The FA market has been too high priced for what we’ve had to offer. That’s why we’ve been stuck with the red head and tuff as his tattoo RJ.

    Amundson here would certainly make my summer! Not sure if we’re pursuing him or not. Not even sure what offeres are on the table for him. Probably some ridiculous offers like every other one out there. WOuld love to see him in a Spurs uni.

  • Craig W.

    Anyone who doesn’t believe there were talks before Jefferson opted out doesn’t understand the financial sophistication the teams and agents are dealing with.

    We all thought, “What the ?????????” when we heard he opted out – this was just too perfect for the Spurs. After a he didn’t seem concerned after sitting on the sidelines for awhile things seemed just a bit fishy. The signing sort of confirmed all possible suspicions.

  • Hoopster

    Well everyone whats done is done! Lets just hope for a great season from all of our signings and maybe we can surprise some people this year. I truly believe if we do not have injuries and and get TD and Manu rest through the year so they are as fresh as possible for playoffs we have as good a shot as anybody. Only real concern going in at this point is I still do not believe we made any improvement in our perimeter D and that is something that killed us last year. Jokerson will never be the type of defender out there we need.

  • Hoopster

    I guess we can always look on the bright side if the Jokerson experiment does not work out for us we can possibly trade him down the road. Should be interesting to say the least. Can’t wait for the season to start!

  • Ken

    I think it was the best move for us to make at SF

  • senorglory

    @BlaseE: “Also RJ is getting 27 million over the first 3 years. That puts his 4th year as a giant 12 million expiring for a 34/35 year old. The Spurs have parlayed RJ’s almost too large to trade 16 million expiring into a 12 million after the Duncan window is closed. That is pretty savvy.”

    I think this is a good point overlooked on various NBA forums.

  • spurs4life

    I think that the lower pay-scale will release rj of some of the pressure of being the 2nd best paid player on a team that he is clearly (at best) the 4th best player on the most accomplished team of the last 10-20 years in the nba. Any time a guy joins a new employer there is a time allowed for figuring out where he fits in the organization…especialy with local titans as timmy manu and tp. Now his pay is equal to his job description. The pressure of being worth 15 mil is off his back. I speculate that now rj his free of the embarassment of looking at manu, who throws his heart and bones at the wood for san antone, is gone. That will free him up to just fit “in”. No city in sports loves an under-dog fighter like the river city (reid, bowen, elliot, bonner.. local legands that are bigger because of the s.a. loyalist style) and now rj is closer paid to that mode than being paid in the mode of special talent (timvp, tp, manu, admerial, iceman, silas, robertson.). I’m excited to see manu at6 and rj at 7. 2010 will be a redemption reason mark my words. GO SPURS GO