Richard Jefferson: Should His Spurs Contract Have Contained a Prenup?

Lake CruiseAnalyst IMay 5, 2011

May 3, 2010: Richard Jefferson shows off his shooting form in Phoenix.  His form was overhauled during the following summer.
May 3, 2010: Richard Jefferson shows off his shooting form in Phoenix. His form was overhauled during the following summer.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Should the Spurs have signed Richard Jefferson to a prenuptial deal to go along with his restructured contract? 

Um, yes—according to a lot of Spurs fans.

He’s got Spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle—the line from the song goes. After a hot start, Jefferson’s jump shots suddenly started jangling around the rim but not going in.

He entered a sudden marriage contract with the city of San Antonio in 2010, but it didn’t contain a prenup.

Now he’s locked up with the Spurs for at least two more seasons. And the seasoned fans he vowed to please aren’t satisfied. They want to end the marriage—and fast. 

They’ve had their eyes on another partner for two seasons, and they can’t hide their yearnings for a divorce any longer.

It was the same way at the end of last season, but he managed to reconcile with them by seeing a marriage counselor named Gregg Popovich for most of last summer. Pop got R.J. to take a step back and look at himself in the mirror.

R.J. didn’t like what he saw, so he jumped in the gym and relearned the art of basketball and how to please local Spurs fans—how to give them what they want—a championship. 

Something clicked, and R.J. finally got it. He started of the season happily married to the fan base.

Now the basis for him living and playing in the same house—the almost 20,000 capacity AT&T Center in the Alamo City—is strongly being questioned. The questions started after R.J.’s production noticeably declined along with the Spurs' losing the No. 1 seed.

The renewed vows in the declining relationship started to mean nothing.  He looked lethargic and was unwilling to take out the garbage. 

Instead, he was dirtying up the floor and the fans were picking up after him. Enough already.

If Jefferson listens to local affiliated talk radio enough, then he knows the fans have filed for an emergency divorce from him. The luster of the wedding rings has rusted on Richard—“Little Richard” fans have started to call him.

The fans have never received the rings he was supposed to give them.  I hope they weren't pawned.  He’s their pawn in the chess game between fans and NBA organizations. 

He didn’t do himself any favors with Pop or the fans—getting only 10 minutes in the clinching game six and shooting 12-of-33 for the series. 

The good thing—for fans—is  second-year Spur R.J. does indeed have a tradeable contract. 

Why re-sign Richard Jefferson in the second place—like the Spurs did this season? Good question. Many Spurs fans are asking it. A revolting situation, keeping in mind most of these fans were absolutely hyped about the first time R.J. signed. 

The team was promoted as title contenders in the summer after Jefferson signed with San Antonio and before they unceremoniously collapsed in the first round in both of R.J.'s runs. 

For his own mental well-being I’d run him out of town, if I was part of the Spurs' top brass. I’d trade him to a division rival like Dallas, at all costs—Caron Butler for Richard Jefferson.

I’d then run for mayor of San Antonio and win by a landslide. Jefferson had better do something about this marriage before the land actually slides on him and the people move his house to another location with their bare hands.

I jest. Spurs fans aren't like that. Some of them probably want to restructure his contract to include a prenuptial, though—an option for an immediate trade to get their hands on someone like 38-year-old Grant Hill—if Phoenix would do it. 

Jefferson is a younger man, but it doesn’t matter to Spurs Nation.

It’s like he’s jilted them at the altar—like I wrote about late last year.

He virtually cut his salary in half—in the second deal—and got more years. He went from getting paid about $12 million to seven million per season.

The end of his 2010-11 season was a Calamity Jane of errors. He was shooting the basketball like Tarzan swinging from tree to tree in the jungle—missing the net. 

He seemed to have a problem maintaining energy, focus and defensive intensity—factors fans expected him to improve on in his second season in the system. The system never stuck with him—and vice versa—especially on defense.

In his defense, neither DeJuan Blair nor Matt Bonner are getting killed like Jefferson in San Antonio, and they had similar seasons. They both started strong and faded something serious.

Fans on the local radio shows—seriously—are almost unanimously saying R.J. was absolutely atrocious in the playoffs and needs to go. 

They know he wasn’t asked to be the go to guy in San Antonio, but he was expected to at least…go.

He did little in the way of helping the cause in the last two games of the season. Going scoreless in 10 minutes of action in a close-out game six—won by the opposition—tied a scoring record for futility set by R.J. in game five.

In the playoffs, he was shooting more blanks than Mel—the voice of Bugs Bunny and many other cartoon characters. Gregg Popovich gave him every opportunity to right the sinking ship.  

Now R.J. may have to ship out on his own accord—ask out of his deal. 

Here's the real deal: After Gary Neal scored the game-tying basket in the fourth quarter of game five, Jefferson was the first one to congratulate him. Jefferson hopped off the bench and ran onto the court to cheer for Neal. Some Spurs fans even criticized R.J. for that. Sheesh.

After the commercial break in game five, fans discovered Neal was out of the game, and Jefferson was back in to start the overtime period. Richard is bigger in stature than Neal, and Pop perhaps reasoned that a defender was needed against the Grizz. 

Luckily, the Spurs won.

Devil’s advocate-type Spurs fans say R.J.’s naysayers are too hard on “Little Richard”—as even one local talk show host calls him. 

My observation has been this: Jefferson isn’t capable of carrying a winning NBA team and too much was expected of him from the time he signed with San Antonio. The real problem, now, is his trade value. The Spurs can’t expect to get anything more than a second round pick for him.

The Spurs signed Da’Sean Butler, who I thought could blossom into a Kobe Bryant-type closer in the NBA—until Butler tore his ACL and MCL. He was the closer for Bob Huggins’ University of West Virginia team that made it to the Final Four in 2010.

Butler got hurt in the second half of the national semi-final game against Duke. The Miami Heat drafted him in the second round in 2010, but cut him at the end of training camp. As a senior at West Virginia, Butler was a finalist for the John Wooden Award.

He’s rehabbing and will finally wear jersey No. 1 for the Spurs. The fans can’t wait to see if he is the one

They now know for certain R.J. isn’t. Out with old, in with the new.