Richard Jefferson “The Spurs always have a target on their back because they’ve been so good, so consistent, for so long.”
February 1, 2011 – 7:15 am by Steven Cuce
Former University of Arizona standout and ten year NBA veteran, Richard Jefferson, was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the San Antonio Spurs to help transition the team in terms of age according Spurs general manager R.C. Buford. Jefferson was added to bring a dynamic wings scorer to play alongside San Antonio’s “Big Three” in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
Last season was an uneasy one for Jefferson as he had to adapt to a new system in San Antonio as well as learn how to play around the “Big Three.” This year San Antonio has really gelled in all facets of their game as they have become the surprise team of the NBA this season. The Spurs have won ten of their last eleven games and have the best record in basketball at 40-7. Jefferson has been a big key to that success this season averaging 12.3 points per game emerging as one of the many go-to role players of the Spurs.
Richard Jefferson joined the Jim Rome Show to discuss the reason for why the Spurs have started out with the best record in franchise history, the challenges adapting to San Antonio’s system last season, what it’s like playing alongside the “Big Three” in San Antonio, is the bull’s-eye back on the Spurs now having the best record in basketball and the three-and-half million dollar check he wrote out to his alma mater at the University of Arizona.
Listen San Antonio is off to their best start in franchise history. What is the reason for that? Is it due to the team being healthy all season?
“Well I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think some of our newer guys including myself, even though I’ve been in the league a few years. We have a better understanding of what the system is and what coach wants. We have a year under our belt with playing with Tony [Parker], Tim [Duncan], and Manu [Ginobili]. Guys like myself, DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess. I think it’s been a combination of a lot of things.”
Talk about the challenges coming into San Antonio’s system? How tough was it last year to come in and fit in?
“It was difficult. A lot of the times people don’t really look at it from a basketball IQ perspective. In the sense that this system is built around three guys. The strengths of Tim [Duncan] and Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili]. I’m not similar to any of those players, but it took me a little bit to find my niche and understand where I could help the team the most. I think there have been other players too this year that have a better understanding. Like I said DeJuan Blair, George Hill, really in his second year of playing and Antonio McDyess. We’ve gotten contributions from everyone.”
What’s it like playing alongside the “Big 3″ in San Antonio? (Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker)
“Oh it’s great playing with them. They’re great teammates. Obviously they have a certain amount of trust amongst each other that everyone else is trying to get in that circle, but no it’s great. The more times you spend with them. The more games. The more shots that you hit that are clutch. The more they’re able to trust you. That’s what it is. It’s not only about gaining trust from them, but also Coach Pop. [Gregg Popovich] I think this year the trust level is much higher on the team because like I said everyone has contributed.”
Is the bull’s-eye now on your back because the team is healthy and the best in basketball by record?
“Well I think the Spurs consistently have a bull’s-eye even though the Lakers are the two-time defending champions, three-time Western Conference Champions, and they are the team to beat as far as we are concerned. They’re the one’s that we are focused on and trying to have a better year than we did last year. The Spurs always have a target on their back because they’ve been so good, so consistent, for so long. I don’t think anything has really changed. I think teams are much more aware, but it’s like not in any point of time in last the ten-to-twelve years, when the Spurs came to town that teams started to relax.”
College basketball players talk about a family when they play at school. You wrote a check for three-and-half million dollars for the University of Arizona program? Why did you do that?
“You know coach Olson [Lute Olson] was starting to reach the end of his career there and I’ve been so blessed throughout my career. I still attribute a lot of that to everything I learned at Arizona. I grew up in Phoenix. I watched University of Arizona basketball really pretty much starting with Damon [Stoudamire] and Khalid Reeves. Those are the first guys I really watched go to the Final Four. So when I got the opportunity and they had that gym there. I just felt it was an opportunity not to add to my legacy. I don’t really have a legacy, but more to add to coach Olson’s legacy. You know his name is on the court. To have one of his former players have their name on the practice gym versus a different type of rich, business, oil man or somebody, but an athlete. Those things help with recruiting. Those are things that are important to me. My great,great, grandkids and my parents love it. I think it’s great opportunity to not only show coach Olson helped us as people, but he also helped us be able to provide for our families. I thought that was a great way for me to give back.”
Listen to Richard Jefferson on Jim Rome here
Tags: Coach Lute Olson, Jim Rome, Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs, Spurs best record in the NBA, Spurs have bull’s eye on their back, University of Arizona
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