EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – We interrupt this blog for an important weather bulletin: Snow is coming, but hopefully it won’t keep fans from driving to the Meadowlands to shower Richard Jefferson with appreciation. Jefferson makes his return tomorrow night, and should be given a long and loud standing ovation for the seven years he spent with the Nets and all he did for the franchise.
Jason Kidd got a standing ovation, but it was about 30 seconds and not that loud because a bad snow storm hit the area on that day and there was hardly anyone at the game. It was a nice reaction for Kidd, but the weather spoiled what should have and could have been a special night.
Maybe it was meant to be since the end of Kidd’s Nets’ career was stormy and he forced his way out. Jefferson wanted to stay a Net, be here for his career, and fans should acknowledge that. Not many players felt that way or feel that way, but Jefferson did.
In hindsight, Jefferson knew he wasn’t going to be a Net forever. His name came up in trade talks every summer. The Nets nearly pulled the trigger on something with the Bulls at the 2006 NBA Draft, tried to do a deal with the Nuggets before last year’s draft and eventually sent Jefferson to the Bucks on Draft Night 2008 for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.
“It wasn’t like all of a sudden I was like this franchise guy and out of the blue I got traded,” Jefferson said before playing the Nets in Milwaukee last month. “Every summer I would go into a situation where it was Richard for Luol Deng, or Richard for Tyrus Thomas or Richard for the No. 2 pick and Richard for Carmelo Anthony.”
Richard really kept up with the trade rumors. His departure was inevitable, but it doesn’t take away or diminish what he meant to the Nets for the seven years he was there.
“I think he had a hell of a run here,” Vince Carter said. “He was on both Finals teams. He’s done a lot. He’s second in scoring in the Nets’ history. What’s not to love?”
For the fans, nothing. Jefferson did so much. For the most part, he played hurt. For the most part, he put his personal stats and accolades second.
The one time Jefferson chose to have surgery – on his ankle during the 2006-07 season – it was not a popular decision among some teammates and led to some strained relationships in an already fractured locker room during that tumultuous campaign. And Jefferson did care about his numbers and being an All-Star, which he never was, a little too much at the end of his time with the Nets. I would never say he put it before winning because he did care about winning. And if you look at his record, thanks to Kidd, few players were a part of more wins in Nets’ history.
That’s what the fans will remember about Jefferson – the exciting dunks, the big plays, the alley-oop against the Cavaliers, the game-winning basket in the 2007 playoffs against Toronto that he made stand up because he got the steal on the other end.
No, Jefferson’s resume isn’t as great as Kidd’s and he didn’t do as much as his point guard did for the Nets and for every player with which he played. But Jefferson may have been the Nets’ best small forward in their NBA history, and probably was involved in more wins than anyone in franchise history other than Kidd.
Maybe the snow won’t affect the turnout and Jefferson will get showered with the respect and appreciation he deserves.
Carter didn’t practice today, giving his right ankle some more rest, but he said he’s playing tomorrow. The Nets, however, will be without Bobby Simmons and Eduardo Najera due to strained abdominals.
Devin Harris was selected to participate in the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday. Also chosen were Tony Parker, Jameer Nelson and Derrick Rose.
Brook Lopez was named the East Rookie of the Month for January.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)