Richard Jefferson talks development, Gordon Hayward and the joy of basketball
On player development and the best qualities for a coach to have
I think when you have a head coach, you need someone first and foremost that, you know, is going to keep people, like I said, accountable. Like, you need to, I, you know, if I’m a GM, I want to know what your plans are for player development.
I think the biggest shame in this league is that the league is getting younger*–there’s younger and younger players coming in every single year, the average age is younger–but we spend the same amount on player development that we did five years ago.
And that makes absolutely no sense, that you’re not training these kids. Because they’re not getting three years of college under Mike Krzyzewski. They’re not getting three years or four years or two years of college under Lute Olson. No, they’re getting one year of school at a school that you might not have heard of, and then you’re coming to this league and you’re like, “Well, he can’t play.”
Well, no, he has talent but you need him in the gym for two hours everyday with a guy that knows how to develop a player. And he has to be able to develop a player within your system so that he can succeed.
I think that’s where the [San Antonio] Spurs are great. The Spurs, they shoot shots and and play under a certain system, and when you’re in practice and when you’re doing your work on your side, it’s under their system. They didn’t have me out there working on pick and roll; they had me shooting tons of corner threes, contested corner threes, and one-dribble pullups because, “Hey Richard, that’s where you’re gonna be. That’s what the system is about. And so, every single day you’re gonna practice that so that when we feed you into our system, you’re gonna be able to contribute.”
* Tyrone Corbin: You had me at “biggest shame is the league is getting younger.”
What do you impart to Gordon Hayward in your role as a mentor in what is a tumultuous season for him?
Well, I just tell him I’ve been there. I’ve been there in a contract situation where, you know, I remember they let go of Kenyon Martin. They didn’t bring back Kerry Kittles. And you can’t put pressure on yourself in these things.
You can’t, and I try and tell him, I’m like, “Look. If, when you got drafted, or when you were in your last year at Butler, if someone told you they were gonna pay you $10 million to play basketball, you would blow your mind.”
But all of a sudden, other places, and again, I don’t know what his number is. I don’t know what’s been offered to him. I don’t know what the Jazz, or any of that stuff–I, just conversations with him, it’s like, now all of a sudden, if you’re only, if you’re getting $11 instead of $13 [million], you’re in a bad mood. And it’s like, no, that can’t be your mentality.
And you can’t worry about what teams have money, what teams don’t have money, if your team–no, because all those things will drive you crazy, ’cause then you’re gonna wanna play well against the teams that have money, and then, you kn–all those things go into that brain, and it’ll affect the way you play.
And it doesn’t stop this year, because then next year you’re gonna wanna prove to everybody that didn’t sign you, “Oh, I’m worth that.” Or the teams that didn’t w–that, “Oh, I’m worth this contract.” And so, you can really mess yourself up for a couple of years focusing on that.
At the end of the day, if you love to play the game, and understand that, hey, you know, you’re 23 years old right now. Even if you sign a four-year contract…you’ll be out of it at 27. That means you can sign another one that’ll take you to 32. That means you can sign–so it’s like, don’t focus on, you know, oh, this is all the money I’m gonna make.
It’s like, look, at the end of the day, we’re all very blessed. And there’s no difference between having $40 million in the bank and having $48 [million] in the bank. And I know that might sound absurd and I’m not–to the people out there listening, I know that’s a ton of money–but I’m just saying, it’s a ton of money. If you have $40 million in the bank, you’re not missing any meals. It’s generational money. If you have $46 million in the bank, and that’s really what the difference is between making $11 [million] a year and making $12 [million] a year.
So it’s like, don’t get into the difference and the principle and “Well, he’s making that and he’s ma–” No. it’s like, look. Well, I’m going to get this, and I’m gonna bust my tail, and next time it comes around, I’m gonna go at it again.
** People calling Alec Burks “Alec Burke”: Richard Jefferson
On rediscovering his joy in the game
The joy that I have for the game right now is a newfound joy. It is a joy that I probably have not had in, since my first three or four years in the league. And, it’s, you wanna win. You wanna do this; you wanna make All-Star games, and then all of a sudden you get to Year 10, and your body’s banged up and you get to Year 12 and I couldn’t even really play last year…
So when I was able to get healthy, when I was able to come to a situation and not only play, but help a bunch of young guys, I was so excited about getting traded to Utah. I knew that the situation was not gonna improve for me–even being healthy, I knew the situation wasn’t gonna improve for me–in Golden State.
So to come here in a situation where they wanted me to play was gonna be huge and like I said, now that I know I’m only gonna play two or three more years, and I can kinda see the end and I know I’m in the twilight of my career, I enjoy everything.
I enjoy the road trips that much more. I enjoy the practices that much more. I enjoy the scratches, the bumps, the bruises. You know, I’m talking to the other team, I’m talking to the other coaches, I’m just enjoying it so much more than I probably, like, I had probably the last six or seven years, because those years I was focused on, you know, I wasn’t focused on money, but I was focused on All-Star games; I was focused on trying to win a championship.