In the seven years I have known
I hadn't spoken to Jefferson since he was traded in July to Milwaukee in a cost-cutting move (Jefferson is owed $42 million over the remaining three years of his contract) that also brought the Nets forwards
I read the quotes from Jefferson's press conference. He claimed not to be upset about going from one of the NBA's biggest cities (while technically playing in New Jersey, Jefferson lived in Manhattan) to one of its smallest, that the only reason he was upset was because he was leaving the only team he had ever played for.
"It was an emotional thing for me," said Jefferson in July. "Only because I wanted to be a Net for my entire career."
Still, I wasn't entirely convinced. Jefferson is a city guy -- he recently purchased a new home in Manhattan -- who was now being required to spend at least seven months out of the year in a town not exactly known for its nightlife. That's not a knock on Milwaukee, it's just a fact.
And I wasn't entirely sure Jefferson wasn't ready to leave New Jersey, for the reasons I enumerated earlier. When Carter signed a four-year, $61 million contract with the Nets before last season, it effectively ensured Jefferson would continue his role of second banana. Third, really, if you factor in Kidd, but I think Jefferson saw surpassing Carter on the star chart as his biggest obstacle.
So with the dust from the trade long since settled and a few weeks to go before training camp, I figured now would be a good time to ask Jefferson the question: Are you at all upset about no longer being a Net?
"You know, I
"For the last two or three years, my name has been brought up in trade rumors. Before it was about trading me to Chicago for
Jefferson said he also understands that the Nets, who are slashing payroll in order to get under the salary cap in 2010, would want to move his salary.
"The organization is trying to cut costs," said Jefferson. "When you are a part of an organization for seven years, you hear about things on the business side. You hear that they might want to go in a different direction."
That direction is probably why Jefferson is no longer upset about being traded. As the Nets began to decline (the '03 Finals appearance was followed by a second-round exit in '04 and a first-round sweep in '05) there appeared to be a rift forming between the core of the team -- namely Kidd, Jefferson and Carter -- and management, specifically head coach
I know some players privately seethed about Frank's unwillingness to play and develop young players. And free agency? The
With the talent being drained around them, the pressure on the Nets Big Three began to build. And it certainly didn't sit well with any of them when the critics blamed them for the Nets struggles, not when they were practically begging management to bring in some help. And to stop letting the talent that they had walk away.
Does that rift still exist? I think so. Kidd and Jefferson are gone, but Carter is being asked to play hard for a team that: a.) doesn't expect to win for the next two years and b.) is subtly courting someone --
None of this seems to concern Jefferson. Not anymore. He talks about the potential he sees in a frontcourt with himself and rookie
"We're going to have a good season," said Jefferson.
Will New Jersey? Nope. I didn't bother asking. I already know the answer.