Richard Jefferson has the nerve to go back to the basics

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NBA_jefferson1_250.jpgI’m not sure where Richard Jefferson learned how to be a professional athlete, but I’m pretty sure he’s doing it wrong.

First, he abandoned huge short-term financial gains in favor of a more practical long-term deal. Well-played certainly, but to give up a $15.2 million single-year salary along with a chance to play his way into an even better contract? Not exactly a symptom of the confidence bordering on overconfidence bordering on hubris that we’re accustomed to with pro athletes.

Then, after struggling through the ’09-’10 season, Jefferson showed a lot of nerve. He went to work with the Spurs assistants, put in a summer of hard work, and really made an effort to become better acquainted with and more useful in the Spurs’ system. From Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
understands what a Jefferson revival can mean. He worked with him over
the summer and helped formulate a program to improve and adapt his game
to fit the Spurs’ systems. From sessions with Popovich in San
Antonio to weeks in New York, working out with Spurs assistant Chad
Forcier, and enrollment in development guru Tim Grgurich’s summer camp
in Las Vegas, Jefferson threw himself into a regimen that emphasized

“There are very few pros who have played as long
as he has and scored as much as he has who would do what he did this
summer,” Popovich said. “He went back to the fundamentals and did
drills with myself and other coaches — basic, basic things to get his
game back to where he can really help us. His dedication and development this summer are going to be one of the most important things for our success this year.”

What’s RJ’s deal, anyway? Are there no movies to be filmed? Is there no rain to be made? Does he really have nothing better to do than everything he should be doing?

Preseason quotes are typically dripping with optimism, but in this case, Popovich’s comments seem a bit more grounded. Jefferson didn’t add “15 pounds of muscle,” he simply focused on tailoring his game to his San Antonio home. That’s the understated off-season development that can make a player like RJ far more effective, if only by fitting bit more snugly in his role with the Spurs.

The impact of Jefferson’s efforts should be obvious in the coming season, and could spearhead the internal development that San Antonio needs to seriously contend in the West. Tiago Splitter is a huge addition for the Spurs, but without significant improvements by Richard Jefferson and George Hill, the Spurs are no better than the other half dozen second tier teams in the Western Conference.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.