Today is the final day for teams to decide if they'll be using the amnesty provision on any of their players. Thus far, it looks as if the Richard Jefferson-amnesty report that torched the Internet and fan text wires last week is beginning to fade. If the Spurs don't amnesty Jefferson today, they'll most likely keep him for the remainder of the season.
After practice on Thursday, the San Antonio Express-News was able to get head coach Gregg Popovich's answers on Jefferson's status at the moment. In his response, Coach Pop discuses the potential Jefferson can have this coming season, why the criticism toward Jefferson was unfair, and why no one on the team played to their ability except Gary Neal.
“It’s kind of interesting, everybody’s always asking about amnesty, and I’m always wondering, ‘Why Richard?’ As if we didn't advance in the playoffs because of Richard.”
Said Popovich: “I don’t think anybody played great. Maybe I should have coached better. Maybe three or four players should have played better, but everybody kind of singled out Richard, which was pretty unfair. He had a hell of a year for us. I don’t think any of us stood out in that series. What stood out was Memphis, both as a team and individually, they were great.
“Really the only person who played consistently well through the whole series was Gary Neal. To put it on Richard, I think is inappropriate.”
Though Popovich spoke these words Thursday, there had to be some talks on moving Jefferson after the season ended. On draft night, there were multiple rumors of the team shopping point guard Tony Parker in a package that would need to include Jefferson. Then when the lockout ended, the Spurs were one of the first teams rumored to be interested in a handful of small forward free agents from Caron Butler, Vince Carter, Josh Howard, Maurice Evans, Bostjan Nachabar, Reggie Williams, Grant Hill, and even Tayshaun Prince.
During those negotiations with available free agents was when the Jefferson-to-be-amnestied report broke last week. At the time, maybe the Spurs thought they'd land one of the players named above. But as of Thursday night, only Nachbar is still available as Josh Howard decided to sign with the Utah Jazz and Maurice Evans elected to return to Washington.
The latest on Nachbar is that he's most likely east coast bound to play for the Knicks. There's no further discussions of his party and the Spurs.
As for Jefferson and the Spurs, if he isn't amnestied on Friday, the team will proceed most likely with him as the starting small forward as James Anderson and rookie Kawhi Leonard eventually find a place in the rotation. One has to assume that Jefferson will continue to stay on the trade block throughout the season but it's doubtful any team will make a trade for his contract unless they're getting a major Spurs asset in return as well.
Coach Popovich believes the team will carry on with Jefferson and he thinks he'll continue to make an improvement in his third season.
“Each year, he’s understood the system more and done a better job,” Popovich said of Jefferson. “I think he wants to come back and have an even better year than he did last year. I think he was fifth in the league in shooting his 3s, and he got better defensively. I think he’ll move forward from there.
Actions speak louder than words POP, benching R.J. in an elimination game says a LOT, I love ya SPURS but we made a mistake and we are living with the consequences...
In a way the spurs solved their problem by re-signing steve novak. They now have a small forward. The spurs can concentrate on looking at a big man. May be the big guys from the d-league or Fesenko can fit the bill.
It's funny. Popovich is just doing the PC thing here. They were obviously shopping for a new small forward so he HAS to say this when they struck out and came up empty. But if he really felt this way about Jefferson, he would have played him in the second half of game 6 (the writing was on the wall when he didn't). This is Pop just trying to save face.
@enzo the Baker totally agree. This was Pop's way of trying to act like they were not going to amnesty RJ. But if true, then why look at 3 SFs? Butler, Howard and Hill.