Richard Jefferson provided trusted, veteran presence for injury-riddled Mavs

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.”

2015 Year in Review: Richard Jefferson

Exit Interviews: Richard Jefferson

Richard Jefferson reflects on his 2014-15 season with the Mavs.

Richard Jefferson was one of the most reliable players on the Mavs roster this season. You knew exactly what he was going to do when he came into the game, and that’s shoot threes to great effect. Even at age 34, he still makes it look easy.

Unfortunately, health kept Jefferson out of Game 5 in the playoffs, as it did several other Mavericks, so he wasn’t able to see the season off the way he deserved to. All that considered, though, Jefferson put together a quality season, furthering his development into one of the more consistent three-point specialists in the NBA.

SEASON STATS

PTS REB FG% 3PT%
5.8 2.5 44.4 42.6

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION

Jefferson

Jefferson’s three-point percentage led the team, and he was also one of the most reliable and oft-used corner three shooters — his 43.8 percent mark from the spot was bested only by Devin Harris and JJ Barea, in that order. He shot better than 45 percent from beyond the arc for four individual months during the season, as well, a very impressive feat for anyone in this league.

He also displayed the ability to get to the rim with general ease and he could finish at a league-average rate. Chandler Parsons was the small forward most dangerous off the bounce on this team, but Jefferson, even considering his age, can still move well on the ball. He relies on craftiness more now than he maybe used to, but he could make things happen from the weak side, and that’s what made him such a valuable spot starter this season.

STANDOUT SHOWING

This was maybe the most ferocious in-game dunk by any Maverick in the Dirk Era.

Jefferson’s Incredible Dunk

Richard Jefferson goes way up for an amazing slam, but an offensive foul wiped away the score.

Alas, Jefferson was inexplicably called for an offensive foul and the play didn’t count. That didn’t stop the Internet from temporarily breaking as we took a moment to appreciate not only how unbelievable the dunk itself was, but how much more impressive a play it was given Jefferson’s age. It was incredible.

As for an individual game, Jefferson’s brightest moment came in the double-OT win in Denver on April 10, when he scored 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 4-of-8 from three. If you had to simplify it to one game, that would be the one, but Jefferson had so many spot starts throughout the season due to various injuries to others that he proved his value simply by remaining healthy and playing.

CONTRACT STATUS

Jefferson is an unrestricted free agent this summer. After missing the playoffs last season with the Jazz, I’m sure it was refreshing to get back to the playoffs with the Mavs this year.

That said, with this being Jefferson’s 14th season in the league, it’s unclear how much longer he’ll keep playing, meaning teams will likely offer him a one-year contract. That seems to be the way the league is trending — many veterans almost become nomads toward the end of their career. But this much is clear: Every team in the league needs wings who can shoot threes, and Jefferson is one of them.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

As is the case with fellow teammate Charlie Villanueva, Jefferson will be able to hit threes for as long as he can stand up. He’s only shot below 39.7 percent on threes twice since the end of the 2007-08 season, and in today’s NBA shooting is one of the most sought-after qualities by teams around the league.

This season, however, was sort of different for Jefferson. After coming off the bench with mixed success in Golden State during the 2012-13 season, Jefferson was much more consistent this season, but he’s started nearly every game of his career during every other season. It’s good that he was able to play effectively off the bench, as that will make him more attractive to competitive teams with quality starting wings, including the Mavs. So long as he can continue knocking down jump shots, he can almost play for as long as he wants.

Game 78: Mavs vs. Suns

Suns vs. Mavericks

Monta Ellis scores 20 points, Dirk Nowitzki adds 19 points and Tyson Chandler grabs 23 rebounds and the Mavericks eliminate the Suns from playoff contention with a 107-104 victory.

Despite injury concerns, Mavs remain focused on Wednesday’s outing versus Suns

DALLAS — In need of a win to secure their playoff spot, the Dallas Mavericks will try to finish off a disappointing three-game homestand with a much-needed victory Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Falling to a 108-101 loss at home last Thursday night to Houston, the Mavericks (46-31) wouldn’t be able to get back on track while limping to a 123-110 defeat at American Airlines Center on Saturday against the NBA-best Golden State Warriors. Now, the Mavs face another daunting task, looking to avenge three previous losses to the Suns (39-38) on Wednesday night before venturing back out on the road for three away games.

“We’ll definitely need a home win to the protect our home court,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki confessed. “We’ll see how it goes on Wednesday, but Phoenix has played us extremely well. They present some matchup problems for us. They’ve got some speed at a lot of positions, so we’ve got to be ready.”

Losing starting small forward Chandler Parsons in the third quarter of Thursday’s loss to Houston due to right knee swelling, the Mavs would then find themselves finishing Saturday’s outing without point guard Rajon Rondo after he suffered a hyperextended left knee. The Mavericks may be further handicapped Wednesday night after veteran swingman Richard Jefferson sat out Monday’s team practice due to a jammed toe. Still, the Mavs will try to secure their playoff spot by avoiding a season series sweep at the hands of the Suns, hoping for a change on the injury front before Wednesday’s showdown.

“Our training staff is busy. Our doctors have been busy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle explained following Monday’s practice. “We’re trying to facilitate Mother Nature being a little nice to us. Any time you miss anybody, we’re missing one of the tools in the toolbox. And these guys are all important. We are deep. We’ll absorb it the best that we can. It hurts today not to have these guys for practice, but then again, it’s important to use this time to get them healed and try to get them ready for Wednesday. That’s where we are. We’ve got 10 days or so or whatever it is until we’re looking right at the playoffs. Big picture-wise, health is of the utmost importance.”

The Mavs could certainly use every healthy body in action Wednesday night against the high-octane Suns.

In three games against the Mavericks this season, the Suns are averaging 113.3 points an outing. Phoenix is also shooting 50.6 percent from the field in the three previous matchups, providing a tall order for the Dallas defense Wednesday night as the Mavs try to avoid a third straight loss overall.

And with the Mavericks currently four games ahead of Oklahoma City with five to play and 4 1/2 in front of New Orleans in the race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, seizing a win on their home floor could begin the process of flipping the switch as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“I want us to start playing consistent basketball on both ends of the floor, and we need to do a better job of executing defensively and rebound the ball. Not just rebound the ball, but I think just boxing out, doing the little things and fundamental things,” Mavs center Tyson Chandler proclaimed.

He added: “With every opponent that we’re facing now until the playoffs, we just need to do a better job of tighten up things and making sure that we’re hitting on all cylinders heading into the postseason.”

Note: Returning to action at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night, the Mavericks will next host the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix leads the season series 3-0. The game will air nationally on ESPN and locally on TXA 21 at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:

Chandler Parsons, right knee swelling, day-to-day
Rajon Rondo, hyperextended left knee, day-to-day
Richard Jefferson, jammed toe, day-to-day

Game 41: Mavs vs. Nuggets

Highlights: Mavs vs. Nuggets – 1/16/15

Dirk Nowitzki led all scorers with 25 points as the Mavericks snapped the Nuggets' five-game win streak, 97-89.

Game 40: Mavs at Nuggets

Mavericks vs. Nuggets

Eight Mavs scored in double figures, led by J.J. Barea's 17, as Dallas falls in Denver.

Mavs’ stay-ready mentality bodes well for team’s ultimate success

CHICAGO — With starting point guard Jameer Nelson (back spasms) missing his third straight outing Saturday in Philadelphia and 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki resting on the second night of a back-to-back, the Dallas Mavericks received a boost from two unexpected sources while reeling off a third win in a row.

Outlasting the winless 76ers en route to a 110-103 victory Saturday while moving to 2-0 on their current four-game road trip, the Mavericks (13-5) needed their unsung heroes to step up to make up for the absences of two starters. New additions Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson would answer the call, providing the Mavs with a lift off the bench after limited playing time earlier in the season.

However, seeing the two veterans step up when called upon came as no surprise to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, although he admits that it was certainly needed Saturday night.

“Both of these guys are professionals,” Carlisle said while highlighting the contributions of Villanueva and Jefferson off the bench following Monday’s team practice in Chicago. “They understand that sometimes the bell rings when you haven’t played in a while, and you’ve got to be ready to go in and do what you do. And that Philly game, I don’t know if we could have won the game without those two guys. That’s just a fact.”

Playing a career-low 5.1 minutes an outing in his 10th season, the 6-foot-11 Villanueva stepped in and scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in nine minutes of work off the Dallas bench to help fill the void of Nowitzki on Saturday. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Jefferson, who started 78 games last season for the Utah Jazz, aided a Dallas backcourt that was missing Nelson and fellow newcomer Raymond Felton (right ankle), adding 10 points, two rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes of reserve action.

It was all needed, according to Nowitzki, as the shorthanded Mavericks continued to trend in a positive direction without their franchise player.

“Charlie V. was great,” Nowitzki said with high praise for his new teammate. “He hasn’t seen much time, if any at all, but he stayed ready. You know, he’s one of the best shooters that I ever played with. He can sit for a whole game, and then sub him in and he can make a big shot. It’s what he’s known for his entire career. And R.J., I’m proud of him as well. He hasn’t played as much or as much as he hoped, I’m sure, but he stayed ready. He always does extra shooting on practice days. I see him always down on the practice court shooting before everybody ever gets there. So, just both being great professionals and putting their extra work in, it showed. For sure, both played well and gave us a little boost to win the game.”

But, as Jefferson and Villanueva both point out, their latest contributions just embody the team’s stay-ready mentality that Carlisle has conveyed to his players this season. Still, after once again showcasing their depth, the Mavs admit that they can ultimately obtain much more success if the two veterans continue to provide the team with a spark during short stints off the bench.

“Well, you just have to try and be a professional,” Jefferson explained. “You know, one good thing Coach [Carlisle] has done is from the very, very beginning he’s been very upfront with me about what my position is going to be and what my opportunity is going to be, so it’s kind of been a stay-ready mentality. You know, I feel like I can contribute and I feel like I can still play, but we are a very, very deep team. And if you’re going to be a successful deep team, there’s going to be people that are sometimes out the mix and sometimes in the mix. And to be able to sit Dirk on a night like that off a back-to-back and know that you can have people that you can count on just shows the strength of our team.”

“I like the direction that the team is going. We’re playing very well and playing well on the road. We’ve just got to keep it going,” Villanueva added. “You know, we’ve got guys that want to win and veteran guys on this team, so we know what it takes to win. We complement each other very well. You know, with this team, we’re so deep that there’s guys that have to make sacrifices. Myself, R.J. and Jae Crowder, those are guys that have to be making those sacrifices, and we’re OK with that. You know, we accept our role. And whenever that opportunity arises, just take advantage of it.”

Note: The Mavericks will now make the third stop on their four-game road trip Tuesday, matching up against the Chicago Bulls. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.

Returning to American Airlines Center on Dec. 5, the Mavericks will then play host to the Phoenix Suns. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:
Jameer Nelson, back spams, questionable
Raymond Felton, right ankle, questionable