Tough task ahead for Jefferson

San Antonio Spurs’ forward Richard Jefferson and the Spurs struck an offseason deal which appeased both sides.

rjJefferson opted out of his $15 million pay day which helped the Spurs get under the luxury tax. In doing so, it gave the team more room to maneuver as they were able to add and sign Tiago Splitter, James Anderson and Gary Neal while staying under the salary cap. A deal which helped the Spurs financially in the short-term.

In return, Jefferson got exactly what he needed. He was able to get long-term security by agreeing to a restructured deal with the Spurs which will pay him around $40 million for the next four years.

As the regular season approaches, Jefferson may not have the burden of being an underachieving, overpaid player for the Spurs. His new contract is more reasonable and acceptable.

However, by staying in San Antonio, Jefferson will have a tough task ahead to prove his critics wrong or as he said prove he did not forget how to play basketball.

In the offseason, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich took the time with him over the summer. Though the work in the offseason this was not forced on him, Popovich basically told him to shape up or ship out and he decided to shape up.

What Jefferson did deserves some credit.

He could have walked away, and maybe get traded to another team for a possible better pay-day but he decided to stay and work on his game over the summer.

But has this summer work paid off?

So far his summer work has yet to translate on the court. Granted it is the preseason and he sat out of the preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers but in four preseason games he is averaging 7.5 points and 4 rebounds on 34.6% shooting from the field and 40% from behind the arc.

Jefferson appears to still be a work in progress and the Spurs are betting on a second year rebound from him. Should he be given the benefit of the doubt with the Spurs’ system being so complicated that new players do not catch on until their second season? Perhaps.

Make no mistake about it, the road to another NBA title still relies heavily on the shoulders of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Nonetheless, if the team is to succeed this coming season, it’s a sure bet that Jefferson will have to play his part. Like it or not, he’s still a vital cog to the Spurs’ championship hopes. Especially since he is the Spurs’ only true small forward.