April 21, 2011: Richard Jefferson celebrates with his teammates in San Antonio. The cheers came to an abrupt halt.
Was it Richard Jefferson’s fault the Spurs shockingly collapsed in this year’s NBA playoffs? Without question—according to Spurs Nation—but what did my research show?
The results may shock you.
How did the almost unprecedented player/coach, student/teacher summer boot camp experiment between Richard Jefferson and his coach Gregg Popovich grade this season?
I’m a tough teacher, but the answer to these and many more questions surrounding the fallen Spurs are within your eye’s reach. Stay tuned.
So, was expecting Richard Jefferson to come to San Antonio, Texas and make the four-time champion Los Spurs contenders a reach? Heck, yes.
The Spurs were under the impression Jefferson was a shooter and a slasher. From having him on my fantasy team back in his latter New Jersey days, I knew he wasn’t a shooter. As for being a slasher, well, he’s no Jack the Ripper—just let me say it with finesse.
It shows Gregg Popovich was reaching in the first place when he worked Jefferson out last summer in an effort to revive both men’s careers. The Spurs have lost eight of their last 10 playoff games, and Pop needed Jefferson to help him out this last time.
According to NBA.com writer David Aldridge, Jefferson attended what was basically basketball 101 camp with Pop being the head counselor. I literally mean head counselor.
Something went horribly wrong around the time 2011 started. Jefferson began his slow decline into the shooting slump abyss for which he’s known in Texas. He bricked it up last season and really began regressing to the norm after the All-Star game.
From being at the top of the NBA’s shooters in 2010, Jefferson’s standard deviation regressed to the median with remarkable speed. He started off the season like one of the best shooters ever to grace the NBA hardwood. He ended it, unfortunately, like one of the worst.
His summer basketball school sessions were virtually unprecedented and a big waste of time, it turned out. Not many NBA coaches take the time to personally work with veteran NBA players in the offseason. Not many more will, I suspect.
There are a variety of reasons why Pop took the time. R.J. is known as a favorite of Gregg Popovich’s. The Spurs’ head coach perhaps saw the window of opportunity closing for his team and realized Jefferson needed to step his game up to make a run at a fifth championship.
The way Jefferson teased the NBA early in the regular season, Popovich couldn’t have realized his team would be on the very verge of collapsing in the first round of the NBA playoffs for the third straight season.
Off the court, Jefferson comes from a seasoned and solid family. He’s been a model citizen throughout his NBA career. His career after basketball and after he discontinues his living arrangements in San Antonio should be wonderful for him.
Good for Richard. San Antonio is a tropical place to live and some of the people are friendly. Most of them would give the summer basketball school experiment an F, for failure to make a shot. This criticism is a bit unfair.
We don’t read about Jefferson getting arrested, posing naked on the net or otherwise hurting the good image of NBA players. When it comes to staying out of trouble off the court, he’s an elite player in the league.
He fits in with the Spurs’ image and their plans. After restructuring his contract before this season, he figured to be in San Antonio for the rest of his career.
Not so fast, my "moving on up to the East Side to a deluxe apartment in the sky" friends. The brick building Jefferson built finally crumbled like the probability of him playing for Pop next year. The music score to the tragic film Jefferson starred in could be called Brick City. Ouch.
Jefferson went scoreless—scoreless—in the decisive Game 4 in Memphis and in the clinching loss in Game 6. And I say this with a heavy heart. I’m not sure what his problem was, but he was absolutely the most atrocious of all the Spurs in the blowout called Game 4.
R.J. was the first one off the bench to congratulate him. He knew the fans would be on his back, and I’d be writing this article if the Spurs lost Game 5 and bowed out in the first round—4-1.
Wait…they did bow out in the first round, and I’m writing this article. That’s how it’s been going for R.J., but he’s a big boy, and he can handle it—even if he can’t handle the basketball and score under pressure in the playoffs.
Pressure busts pipes, and against the Memphis Grizzlies in “win or go home” games in San Antonio and in Memphis, Jefferson laid dinosaur eggs. Zip, zilch, zero my hero.
Back-to-back eggs in must win games for the Spurs in the playoffs. In my grading system, that is an F-minus. Lost as a ball in high weeds, Jefferson and the summer school Pop put him through was big hat and no cattle.
It was not just R.J.’s fault, though—all of the Spurs stunk it up against Memphis, and give Memphis credit. The Spurs were overrated all season after having lost to Dallas and Phoenix in the first round for the last two years, and Memphis took them out.
I'm out like the Spurs. Until next time...one love.