Jefferson delighted to join Spurs
When San Antonio Spurs superstar Tim Duncan found out Richard Jefferson didn't return a phone call from Gregg Popovich after the head coach traded for the Bucks star, he fired a text message to his new teammate: "Don't get traded twice in one day."
Popovich, gruff? Not after this sweet deal for San Antonio.
The Spurs introduced Jefferson on Wednesday after getting the scoring swingman from Milwaukee the previous day in exchange for parting with three aging bench players — an easy swap for the NBA's oldest team, which needed younger legs and offence and got both in one deal.
"I'm thrilled to get that calibre of a player now," Popovich said.
Jefferson, 29, is just as happy to be back on a winning team.
He arrived in Milwaukee last year upset that New Jersey traded him after seven seasons and two trips to the NBA final.
Jefferson then had to carry the rebuilding Bucks after injuries to Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut.
Jefferson averaged 19.6 points and learned to like Milwaukee.
But in San Antonio, Jefferson is reunited with his 2004 Olympic teammate in Duncan and is back with a contending team.
"People don't understand, you just want to be relevant again," Jefferson said. "I didn't understand how fortunate I was when I came into the league and went to two straight finals."
The Spurs gave up Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to get the six-foot-seven forward from the Bucks, who were eager to unload the $29.2 million US owed to Jefferson over the next two seasons.
Milwaukee wanted financial freedom and to avoid the NBA's luxury tax.
The Spurs, on the other hand, will be hit with the luxury tax for getting Jefferson.
But it's a price San Antonio was willing to pay, with its window for a fifth championship in the Duncan era shrinking.
Duncan will be 34 and Manu Ginobili 32 by the time the playoffs roll around next spring.
Neither could stay healthy last season, and Ginobili missed the playoffs entirely while the Dallas Mavericks needed just five games to roll past the Spurs in the first round.
It was the earliest playoff exit since 2000 for San Antonio.
Tony Parker is 27 and grew into one of the NBA's marquee guards last season, but he and a hobbled Duncan was all San Antonio had to throw at the Mavericks.
Jefferson provides versatility
Jefferson is the complementary scorer the Spurs needed.
Popovich said Jefferson won't carry the offensive burden as he did in Milwaukee, and will be tasked with defending the best players on the court and getting to the foul line when needed.
"When I played with Vince [Carter], there as wasn't much of a scoring need," Jefferson said. "When I played in Milwaukee, there was a little bit more of a leadership scoring role.
"The one thing I've been very fortunate to have is versatility. If they need me to play defence or score or shoot a three or post up, I'm able to accomplish that."
Jefferson represents the player the Spurs would have pursued during the NBA's anticipated free agent sweepstakes next summer.
Popovich said Jefferson was as good a player as the Spurs might have picked up in 2010, and waiting could have been a gamble.
"You can't just bank on" that, Popovich said.