NBA: How Do San Antonio Spurs Fans Like Richard Jefferson Now?

Lake CruiseAnalyst IApril 2, 2011

Dec. 1, 2010: Jefferson contemplates a call in L.A.  If he's not careful, he'll be contemplating his career.
Dec. 1, 2010: Jefferson contemplates a call in L.A. If he's not careful, he'll be contemplating his career.Harry How/Getty Images

Will a trustworthy San Antonio Spurs fan please pray for Richard Jefferson

You will?  Thank you. 

His parents were both Christian missionaries, and he moved around frequently as a youth. Moving with missionaries can be a difficult transition—trust me.  My mother is a deacon in another town.

Jefferson has only been in San Antonio for two years, and some Spurs fans aren't making his adjustment to the Alamo City any easier.

Fans have been booing him harder than a man trying to convince his girlfriend he wasn't with another female at the game.  But we saw you, Richard Jefferson (if that's your real name), on the kiss-cam during intermission.

We also saw another side of Jefferson on the cuss-cam; he has now resorted to using four-letter expletives on the court during games. 

That's right, you guessed it.  San Antonio is driving the man mad.  After missing two crucial foul shots against the Trail Blazers, Jefferson let one go. 

Call his parents, and sound the alarm.

I'm sure his parents—George and Weezie Jefferson—were proud of the fact he had an impure thought and verbalized it.  In a city of Catholics, this is a no-no. 

How weird is it to witness Jefferson go through another serious slump in his confidence and his shot?  Very.  We just went through this last year, and it was supposed to be fixed.

His new contract fixed him financially for only $5 million less per year than "Pretty Tony" Parker, the self-professed 33 percent of the Basketball Gods of New York.

But enough about Tony, this piece is about Jefferson.  After bogging down in the throes of lost confidence puppy dog eyes and play, he's been getting dogged through the last stretch of the regular season.  In the words of Patrick Ewing, "The basketball gods batted his shot back out."

I wrote an article last year asking whether or not Jefferson would jilt Popovich and the Spurs.  Many a critic batted their eyes and kept it moving.  But now it appears Jefferson has indeed jilted everyone involved in the happy marriage between him, Popovich and Spurs fans.

David Aldridge wrote last year that Pop couldn't handle another poor season from Jefferson, who Aldridge says is a favorite of Pop's. I don't know much about Jefferson personally off the court, except for the incident where he allegedly left his fiancé at the altar.  But how many of us haven't done that before?  That's rhetorical and a bit sarcastic—please forgive me.

But I do know R.J. on the court.  Please believe me, Jefferson is as sluggish, lost and caput as he was last year.  He's gone from one of the most trusted fourth-quarter scorers to untrustworthy at the end of games, as he was last season. 

Last summer in San Antonio, along with assistant coach Chip Engelland, Popovich put in a lot of work with Jefferson on the court, trying to develop his confidence and three-point shooting.  

Coaching a fundamentally-unsound NBA veteran, this sort of teaching was virtually unheard of, according to Aldridge.  Popovich threatened to trade Jefferson (perhaps tongue-in-cheek), but the Spurs signed R.J. to a restructured deal last season.

Pivoting, dealing, jump-stopping and also jostling for defensive position—what happened to that R.J.'s fourth-quarter heroics from early in the season?  His training has started to wear off, I guess. 

The seven percent body fat with which R.J. reported to camp last October has apparently increased—around his head.  He may still have a cut-up physique, but it's his psyche that needs to gain some weight. 

Where is Sigmund Freud when the Spurs need him? 

The so-called father of modern psychiatry is six feet under, and that's where the Spurs' championship chances are headed if R.J. can't find a strong psyche down the stretch. 

This is potentially a more disastrous situation than the Spurs being on the verge of losing the NBA's No. 1 seed.

"I asked him if he wanted to reach his potential, or just let the next few years slough away and just put money in the bank," Popovich told Aldridge.  "He said 'I want to reach my potential.'"

If you ask most Spurs fans today, Jefferson is definitely letting the next few years slough away while putting the money in the bank.

R.J.'s game was so tragic in Feb. 2010 that after two brutal games in a row, fantasy basketball gurus began suggesting owners drop him for any other hot free agent.  Jefferson had made 1-of-8 shots from the field and scored three points in the comment-spurring performance of his life as a Spur.

At least one fantasy basketball commentator felt R.J. would bounce back before long.  He was wrong.  Jefferson's game and his confidence problem got worse going into the playoffs.

After the Spurs lost to the Mavericks the first game of the first round in the Western Conference playoffs last year, Pop reportedly exploded.

"That's just a sloppy game, there's no reason for that.  So I was very disappointed in us not being very sharp," Pop said.  "And I think we've got to have a few more people step up and play worth a damn.  I thought we had a lot of guys that played like dogs."

Is, "Yikes!" or "Woof!" a more appropriate exclamation here? I'd say both.

It was considered an unspoken truth that Pop was referring to R.J. Jefferson, who scored four points in 32 minutes.  After the Spurs were eliminated via broomstick by the Phoenix Suns, it then became clearer that it was Jefferson Pop was blasting last April.

Say it ain't so, Pop.  Not Jefferson.  Not after all the talk of him going back to the basics during last summer's skill-retooling boot camp. 

Turns out R.J. has managed to first excite and now disappoint a bunch of fans this April. 

He started out the season blazing in the saddles with his spurs shining on his cowboy boots.  He helped deliver a victory late in Phoenix due to his hot streak—early in the season—from the three-point line.

Fast forward to this week, and Jefferson was virtually nonexistent against the Portland Trail Blazers and also disappeared against Boston in the second half.  He only took five shots from the field as Duncan, Ginobili and Parker sat out the Portland game. 

The worst fear for Spurs fans is that R.J.'s playing could be contagious.  It appears Gary Neal is catching the Jefferson bug; he was atrocious against Portland in one of his worst games as a Spurs rookie.

Since March 18, Jefferson has shot 17-for-48 from the field.  He was 1-for-3 against Dallas, 3-for-8 against Charlotte, 2-for-8 against Denver and 2-for-5 against Portland. 

He did manage a 4-for-7 game against Portland on March 25—his only game shooting above .500 from the field during this stretch.

Against Boston on Thursday night, Jefferson sank a three-pointer early in the second half to break a 49-49 tie.  But he missed a dunk and a chance to pull the Spurs within two points with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter.

All isn't lost yet, though.  Jefferson is averaging 11.1 points per game,—down from 12.3 in 2009-10—but his three-point shooting percentage is very good at 43.0 percent.  In comparison, Ray Allen is a 39.9 percent career three-ball shooter. 

Jefferson is making 1.6 three-point shots per game—the highest ratio of his 10-year NBA career.  He's attempting almost four 3's per game though, the most since 2008-2009 with the Milwaukee Bucks when he averaged 19.6 points per contest for them.

In my contested observation, it's obvious Spurs fans didn't like Jefferson last year, and they don't like him this year.  Pray for him, San Antonio.

In an earlier article, I asked if R.J. could keep scoring like the Iceman George Gervin. 

Um, no. 


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