Richard Jefferson looks back at 2016 title run with the Cavs

This article from Richard Jefferson in the Players Tribune is amazing. His account of the 2016 championship run with the Cavs beating the Warriors after falling behind 3-1 in the series is fascinating. This quote sums it up nicely:

Some titles……. they just mean more than other titles. That’s just the truth. I know it. You know it. Golden State knows it.

And Cleveland definitely knows it.

Some titles mean the world.

We agree 🙂

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Was Richard Jefferson’s deal prearranged?

Oct 14, 2008 - Guangzhou, Guangdong, China - RICHARD JEFFERSON of NBA's Milwaukee Bucks attends a training session at the Guangzhou Gymnasium in Guangzhou. NBA China Games 2008, featuring the opening game between Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks, will tip off in Guangzhou on Oct. 15 Photo via Newscom

John Hollinger breaks down the financial impact of Richard Jefferson’s decision to opt out and his resulting contract with the Spurs. Skip to the bolded text if you’re not interested in the nuts and bolts.

On the other hand, they got under the tax solely because Richard Jefferson opted out of a final year on his deal that would have paid him $15 million. This one raised eyebrows in front offices around the league, many of which suspected that there was a prearranged deal between the two parties.

This isn’t an outlandish premise, given that:

• Jefferson told reporters in April that it might be worth it to opt out if he could get a four-year, $40 million deal (he said it right here on April 11).

• That’s almost to the dollar the deal he received in July.

• Doing so got the Spurs out of the luxury tax and allowed them to sign Splitter at a discount.

• There didn’t appear to be any kind of serious bid from another team to drive up Jefferson’s price.

That said, we have no smoking gun that there was any kind of prearranged deal between the Spurs and Jefferson. We don’t even have a smokeless gun. All we have is the circumstantial evidence above, as well as two other pieces of information:

1. The Spurs don’t sign bad contracts.

2. This is the worst contract of the summer.

Seriously, four years and $39 million for Richard Jefferson? Did Isiah Thomas take over the franchise and not tell anybody? Wings who depend on athleticism have a rough time in their late 20s and early 30s; Jefferson just turned 30. He wasn’t a $10 million per year player two years ago, and sure as heck isn’t going to be one two years down the road.

Follow the money, however. Jefferson’s opt-out and lower-salaried return means the Spurs will save about $17 million in salary, luxury tax and tax distributions this year (if one presumes Splitter was coming regardless). Jefferson’s new deal cost $31 million after this season, which is all we care about since the Spurs were paying him in 2010-11 either way. Subtract $17 million from $31 million and you end up with Jefferson’s deal as a three-year, $14 million extension, which seems eminently reasonable … if you were going to prearrange such a thing.

In other words, it was in the Spurs’ benefit for Jefferson to opt out and sign a longer deal at a lower average salary due to the cost savings this season. That savings put the Spurs under the cap and allowed them to sign Tiago Splitter, which Hollinger calls the best contract of the summer.


Jefferson heading back to the Spurs

Apr. 14, 2010: San Antonio Spurs forward Richard Jefferson during an NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated San Antonio 96-89.

According to Marc Stein, Richard Jefferson will officially back with the Spurs sometime soon.

This is the week, by all accounts, that San Antonio and Richard Jefferson will complete the restructured deal that we’ve all assumed had to be forthcoming since Jefferson stunningly opted out of a $15 million salary for next season on the eve of free agency. The specifics in terms of years and dollars remain unknown, but I’ve been assured that Jefferson will officially be back with the Spurs quite soon.

In describing his decision to leave $15 million on the table, the word ‘stunning’ is totally appropriate. Jefferson sees himself as a 20-point scorer in an up-tempo offense, but the rest of the league sees him as a 30-year-old aging athlete who averaged 12 points a game last season. He probably thought he’d get a deal in the four- or five-year range at $9-$10 million a season, but it looks like he’s going to have to settle for quite a bit less. He did the Spurs a favor by opting out, so maybe they’ll treat him well.

What was Richard Jefferson thinking?

Apr. 14, 2010: San Antonio Spurs forward Richard Jefferson during an NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated San Antonio 96-89.

Jeff McDonald and Chris Mannix have some news/rumors about Richard Jefferson.

Jeff McDonald: FWIW, source close to the process sets odds of Jefferson returning to SA at 95 percent.

Chris Mannix: Contrary to some reports, Richard Jefferson does not have any kind of deal in place with Spurs to return for more years at lesser salary.

Chris Mannix: I’m told Jefferson is open to returning to SA but his first priority is a long term deal at the best annual salary he can get.

Jefferson raised more than a few eyebrows when he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Spurs (at the tune of $15.2 million) in order to become a free agent and secure a long-term deal. He overestimated the market for the services of a 30-year-old swingman who averaged 12-4-2 and shot 32% from long range.

The Clippers are reportedly interested, but McDonald seems pretty sure that he’s headed back to San Antonio, which is curious because Jefferson has said in the past that the Spurs’ offense does not showcase his abilities. Maybe he doesn’t care if he has a long-term deal in place. Jefferson’s market seems to be about three or four years at the mid-level ($18-$24 million total), which makes one wonder why he’d leave a one-year payday of $15 million on the table.

At this point, he might as well play for the Heat at the veteran’s minimum. At least that way he can say he opted out for the chance to win a ring instead of looking foolish for overestimating his value.

Where do the Spurs go from here?

San Antonio played pretty well down the stretch this season, winning 17 of its last 25 games in March and April. (That’s a 56-win pace, by the way.) The Spurs looked sharp in their first round series against the Mavs, but looked old and slow as they were swept by the Suns.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Spurs approach this offseason. They just signed Manu Ginobili to an extension, and Tim Duncan is signed for two more seasons, so Tony Parker may be the player most likely to be moved. He has one more year on his contract at the tune of $13.7 million and at just 27, he’s in the prime of his career. George Hill could take over the full-time point guard duties, if necessary.

Trading Parker would be a big shift in direction from a personnel standpoint. San Antonio’s Big Three — Ginobili, Parker and Duncan — have been together for eight seasons and three titles, but they haven’t reached the Finals in the last three tries and haven’t made it out of the semis in the last two years. This begs the question — how big of a change are the Spurs willing to make?

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