According to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, Richard Jefferson should be back in San Antonio prepping to sign a new long-term contract with the Spurs on Wednesday.
Jefferson -- a 6-7 small forward and 9-year veteran of the NBA -- left more than a few scratching their heads with his decision to opt out of a final year that would've guaranteed him $15.2 million. But seeking to avoid the uncertainty of free-agency in a post-CBA renegotiation, Jefferson elected for long-term security -- the thinking to give a little now to recoup much more later.
But in one of the stranger free-agent markets in a long time -- one where Johan Petro essentially equals Tiago Splitter and a restricted free-agent in Rudy Gay gets a max contract without creating leverage -- Jefferson found himself standing without a chair when the music had all but stopped.
Terms of the contract have yet to be ascertained but it would be a fair assumption to think that Jefferson's yearly salary will be cut in half -- unlike Rudy Gay, Jefferson was allowed to test his market-value and create whatever leverage he could, only there was no leverage to be found. His stock had never fallen further. The Spurs will gain some much-needed breathing room with regards to the luxury-tax line and for the third time this offseason, they'll have acquired the most talented player available for the role -- Splitter and Bonner preceding.
Billed as Elliott2K for the new-look Spurs, Jefferson struggled to find his way in the more structured Spurs offense, and as a fourth option offensively. The 30-year-old Arizona product had long been one of the NBA's best open court players on the wing but without the pass-first point guard and ample opportunities in the transition game, Jefferson became a spot-up shooter and -- at times -- an afterthought (and often with only himself to blame).
The small forward in the Spurs' offense has long been tasked with the job of doing two things: play lock-down defense on the perimeter and knock down the corner 3. And coming off a year where he shot a career high 39.7% from the three and a eye-opening 45.9% on corner threes, the Spurs felt they may have found a fit in that respect -- not so much.
A roster in flux (two-fifths of their stating lineup -- Jefferson and McDyess -- were new to the team; 5 of their would-be 10-man rotation -- Jefferson, McDyess, Blair, Hill and Bogans -- were new or playing bigger roles; 2 -- Finley and Mason -- were playing reduced roles and none-too-pleased about it; and 2 of the Big 3 -- Ginobili and Parker -- were working their way back or through injuries), undefined and unknown roles and rotations plagued the team's continuity from start to finish of the 2009-10 campaign.
But front and center was the player who had $29.4 million left of a 6-year $76 million extension he signed back in 2004 with the Nets. A player whose price tag made him both attainable and unreasonably labeled; hefty contracts don't guarantee a savior, much less a player that meets his worth -- Jefferson struggled mightily to fit in with his new team.
Coming off a year in Milwaukee where he was given free reign to score at will and handle the ball more than any other player on the team -- the Bucks had been beset with injuries, their stars Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut missing a combined 95 games -- Jefferson found success in large part due to opportunity -- he set a career high in 3-point attempts (292), attempted the second most field-goals of his career (1,222) and and he attempted his third highest total of free-throws (518).
With those attempts came a rhythm; with that rhythm came a confidence; with that rhythm the Spurs saw something they hoped they could duplicate; but that rhythm and confidence doesn't come without opportunities, attempts.
As a member of the Spurs and -- at best -- their fourth option offensively, the Spurs simply can't cater or force-feed Jefferson to duplicate past production. They can't sacrifice team success for the individual, which is precisely what they'd be doing. The Spurs will have to be a little more creative to utilize Jefferson's strengths and Jefferson will have to impose his will and athleticism on the game more -- an offensive player that doesn't necessarily fit a team's offense can't allow his offensive success to be the barometer for his overall play -- but there's only so much that can be done; there's a point where doing becomes counterproductive.
Going into year-2, there's hope of a better utilization, a more comfortable and confident player, a player that's been freed from the burden of a contract that had become more of an albatross than a source of success or pride, and that there's still hope yet for that Elliott2K.
For better or worse, Jefferson and the Spurs are now in this for the long haul.
A marriage of convenience.