This is an article from the July 13, 2009 issue
The former Buck, who averaged 19.6 points per game last year, was acquired by the Spurs for Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas
Dan Patrick: When you first found out about the trade, what did you think?
Richard Jefferson: I was shocked, to tell you the truth. The fact that San Antonio was able to keep its three main players [Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili] was even more of a shock. It immediately got a buzz going—on my phone and in my head.
DP: Who was the first Spur you spoke to?
RJ: Tim Duncan. He texted me a couple times. We had a pretty good relationship on that stellar USA team back in 2004. I think we bonded through stress over that experience [when the team lost three games at the Olympics and left with the bronze medal]. And so we kept in touch. He was excited. I tell you what, to have the opportunity to play with him and [coach Gregg] Popovich—it's one of the biggest thrills I've ever had in my career.
DP: Who's the team to beat in the West?
RJ: The Lakers. They're the defending champions. The one thing I will never disrespect is the defending champions.
DP: You're getting married soon, aren't you?
RJ: I am. July 11.
DP: Do you have to invite your Spurs teammates now?
RJ: The guest list is pretty much set. And I don't want those guys to feel like they have any obligation just because I'm a new teammate.
DP: You know what—don't worry about Popovich. He doesn't want to be going to a wedding. But maybe invite Tony Parker, because Eva might want to wear a new outfit.
RJ: Well, it's a very, very small guest list.
DP: Let's say you're alone back on defense. Pick your poison here. Who would you rather see coming at you with the ball: Kobe, LeBron or Dwyane Wade?
RJ: That's a tough one. Just me and the basket? I can't answer that question. All three of them pose their own problems.
DP: Wait, Richard, do you need help defense on this question?
RJ: Yeah, I need help defense on this question. I'm going try to foul if it's early in the game. Make them earn two the hard way.
DP: What does Shaq going to the Cavs mean?
RJ: You have another person who, on a lot of nights, you're going to have to double-team. Shaq can win a game, easily. Especially in the playoffs. He's very good at pacing himself and peaking at the right time. It means a lot less stress for [LeBron James].
DP: What's it like to guard LeBron?
RJ: It's tough. People always assume that he's that much bigger or that much stronger. It's really not his strength, because if you ever notice, he's not really a post-up player. He doesn't back you down and beat you up. He's not like Ron Artest in that sense. He has a unique combination of skills that just make it very difficult: his ball handling, his size, his quickness, his strength, his athleticism. There are not many players probably ever that have had that combination. His shooting range and shooting touch continues to improve. And the more confidence he gets, it makes the rest of his game even more difficult to cover. He just has a set of skills that, combined, are pretty much a beast.
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Mike Scioscia discusses the best closers in history.
2. Reggie Miller breaks down the lastest off-season NBA moves.
Cowboys tackle Marc Colombo, who moonlights as the lead singer of the heavy-metal band Free Reign, said he shies away from singing in the team shower. "We keep it to shows and practices," he said. And when I asked which had better groupies—music or football—Colombo didn't hesitate: music. And when he explained why, it was tough to disagree. "Football groupies," he said, "are mostly male."
Like all of Steve McNair's former teammates, Eddie George was stunned by the quarterback's death. "Steve was never about throwing for 400 or 500 yards. He was just concerned about winning," George told me on Monday. "He was a total team player, and that carried throughout the entire team. We took on his personality. When he played hurt, we couldn't miss a day [if we were hurt]."
Line of the week
Kurt Warner explained that he realizes there's no way for him to shed his square image on the field: "In every locker room there's a poster of how you're supposed to dress, and that's me. All the guys make fun of me. They're always trying to get me to lower my socks so I look somewhat cool, but I can't pull it off."
THE FINE PRINT: The poor economy even affected Wimbledon. The big seller at the concession stand was strawberries and nondairy creamer.