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. Â 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. Â 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,Â especiallyÂ 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?