Jefferson is the only
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The New Jersey Nets will not be playing in June for the first time in three years. Their team has been sold and will likely be relocated. They have lost two big presences in the post with Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. Two of their big trio, Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, have nursed injuries for much of the season, including an unfortunate build-up right at the very end. Through all that time, there has been one constant: Richard Jefferson.
Jefferson is the only
He is the first one to
practice and the last one to leave. Scouts and GMs are all aflutter over the
slightest indication of work ethic by potential draft picks. You want to see
work ethic? Look in RJ’s eyes. I am willing to guarantee that next year,
The important thing to remember is this: next year, Richard Jefferson will be an All-Star.
The biggest knock against him has always been his outside shooting. His defense is great, his ability to slash to the basket almost unmatched, and his fast breaks are a thing of beauty. But in many situations, opponents used to leave him open for long-distance shots.
Those opponents will learn that that is a big mistake.
There have been a lot of amazing shots this year, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Everybody has their favorites. My jaw has dropped in awe too many times to count, but one of the first and to me still one of the most amazing shots of the year was by Ray Allen. With time winding down, Allen caught the ball halfway between the three-point line and the half court line. His defender was well off of him, because what is there to defend? Why risk a foul when all you need is to let the clock run out?
Well, Allen simply amazed me. With perfect form and textbook follow-through, he planted his feet and shot the ball from forty feet. Nothing but net.
That’s when I realized that Ray Allen is a better shooter than I am.
Or at least he was at that point. I’ve been practicing.
More importantly, Richard Jefferson has been practicing. Do you know what he does as a pre-game warmup?
Two hours before tip-off, fans are still trying to find their car keys for the ride over. Coaches are in the locker room drawing up plays and notes on the whiteboard. The opposing team is probably not even in the building yet. Most members of the media are still checking in.
Richard Jefferson is warming up. Here is what he does. I have seen him do it twice now, and each time it is amazing.
He starts shooting about halfway between the free throw line and the college three point line, about where Nick Van Exel shoots his foul shots from. He takes a couple shots, then a step back. Then again.
Now he’s at the NBA three-point line, and he calmly swishes a few in. Some go in, some go out, but each shot looks great, and they’re mostly falling, and when they’re falling, they’re mostly swishes.
Another step back. Now he’s shooting what color commentators on TV would call a show from “way behind the three-point line.” Another bunch of swishes. Another step back.
He’s now way out in no-man’s-land, exactly where Ray Allen hit his amazing shot. Swish. Swish. Clank. Clank. Swish. He’s nailing these!
He takes another step back. He’s now just behind the point halfway between halfcourt and the three-point circle. These are the shots that cause insurance companies to pay millions of dollars when fans hit them. It is just beyond RJ’s range. He shakes his head, muttering something about how he’s got it from one step closer.
Overall, he hit about 20% of his shots from that spot one step behind where Ray Allen launched his shot. And he hit substantially more than that for every step closer to the three-point line.
And that’s just his warmup. Wait till you get a load of what he’ll have done this offseason.
When Richard Jefferson comes back next year, he will take the league by storm. He will continue to slash and get to the free throw line, but he will also be a nightmare for whoever’s trying to guard his shot. Furthermore, he’s going to defend the daylights out of whoever’s trying to take it to him. And he’s not going to get tired. RJ is amazingly resilient.
If you are a small forward or big guard in the Eastern Conference, and your name is not Richard Jefferson, you better watch out. Your All-Star days are numbered.