DALLAS — Despite starting 78 games during the 2013-14 season for the Utah Jazz, 34-year-old veteran Richard Jefferson willing assumed a reserve role after signing with the Dallas Mavericks last summer.
Averaging 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists during the ’13-14 season in Utah, Jefferson displayed an ability to still impact the game in a multitude of ways while also connecting on 40.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. But, with the young Jazz team struggling to just a 25-57 record, Jefferson searched for a new home in free agency while hoping to find a team that could compete for an elusive NBA title.
The 6-foot-7 Jefferson then signed with the Mavericks on July 21, joining a veteran-laden roster that was eager to compete for the title. And after stepping up big for the Mavs when his number was called, Jefferson may again be an attractive player for the front office to consider as he enters free agency this offseason.
“Richard Jefferson goes hard,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said while praising the 14-year veteran’s contributions this season. “When he’s on the floor, you know he’s out there. He’s combative on defense and he’s aggressive on offense. If you leave him open, he makes threes. … I love Jefferson. I love the way he plays. He plays with a lot of force. He plays with as much force as anybody on our team, and that’s why he’s a very valuable guy on our roster.”
Suiting up in 74 games for the Mavericks this season, Jefferson averaged just 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds while clocking 16.8 minutes an outing. He also connected on 44.4 percent from the field, shooting the best percentage on the team from behind the three-point arc while hitting 42.6 percent from long range.
Jefferson slid into the starting lineup 18 times as well, providing a veteran presence when starting small forward Chandler Parsons missed time due to nagging injuries. And after scoring in double figures 20 times during the season, Jefferson may have played his way into a roster spot on next year’s team as a mentor and trusted veteran that the Mavs can utilize to help foster young talent.
“I have 800 (starts) in my career, so I feel pretty comfortable there. I understand my place. We have young players in Parsons and (Al-Farouq) Aminu, and my job is to mentor them and to make sure that I can help them in any way and to be a backup whenever they call. Of course, I feel more comfortable starting, even though that’s not my role. And I feel very confident that, when coach (Carlisle) puts me in the starting lineup, that I can make a contribution and make an impact,” Jefferson said while assessing his role on the team.
Before joining the Mavs, Jefferson held career averages of 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 934 games, making 772 starts during stints with the New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Golden State and Utah. He also brought plenty of big-game experience after appearing in two NBA Finals series while with New Jersey, in addition to winning a bronze medal as a member of Team USA at the ’04 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Jefferson then quickly earned the respect of his fellow veterans in the Mavs’ locker room, showcasing an ability to still create highlight reel finishes above the rim in his 14th season. He now hopes to re-sign with the Mavericks this summer, looking to again go into battle with Carlisle and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki as they try to capture the second title in franchise history.
“I mean, for 34, I’ve been really impressed. Jefferson still plays above the rim,” Nowitzki said. “He’s been shooting really well from the floor, spreading the floor to the three, and he just really looks in great shape.”
“I’ve been very blessed to be on some quality teams,” Jefferson explained. “There’s always a difference between a quality team and a team that’s still trying to figure it out, or they have a ton of young guys. Obviously, it starts at the top with Dirk and with Coach Carlisle. We have a great staff here. From the training staff to the coaching staff, everyone is on top of their game. That’s not to say other places aren’t, but you can tell. They have nightly shooting and times scheduled for everybody. When you work and train consistently and hold everyone accountable, you get consistent results. What I’ve seen here is what I expect, and why I’m excited to be here.”