The Denver Post
Jefferson’s key role: “Be the old grumpy man”
Richard Jefferson didn’t get much playing time during his two-year stint with the Golden State Warriors from 2012-13.
But after each practice, thenassistant coach Michael Malone watched Jefferson play one-onone with youngsters such as Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
Malone, now the head coach of the Nuggets, believes Jefferson had a “profound” impact on helping develop those players into NBA champions. And now the Nuggets are calling on Jefferson to provide a similar presence to their young core. Jefferson officially joined the team Thursday after signing a one-year contract.
“My job is to kind of get here and be the old grumpy man,” Jefferson said, “and make sure everyone’s working and make sure guys are putting in that extra time.”
Jefferson rattled off Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Lucious Harris as some of his key veteran influences throughout his 17-year career. Later on, he played with Hall of Fame-bound LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. He has been to the NBA Finals four times, helping the Cleveland Cavaliers win a title in 2016.
Jefferson became an unrestricted free agent this week, after he was traded by Cleveland to the Atlanta Hawks and then waived. Jefferson won’t initially be part of the Nuggets’ rotation, Malone said. But the coach said he “would have no hesitancy” to put Jefferson in a game if needed because of his ability to space the floor, guard multiple positions and make intelligent decisions.
Last season, Jefferson averaged 5.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game for the Cavaliers while shooting 44.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3point range
“His No. 1 goal right now is to get acclimated, be a veteran and then to stay ready,” Malone said. “Because I have no doubt that, at some point, he’s going to be called upon. And when he is called upon, I know he’ll go out there and help us.”
Jefferson, 37, doesn’t mind the limited on-court action, joking that “I’m so old, I don’t care about what my playing role is. I’m glad to have a job.” He believes in the Nuggets’ potential, and in Malone as a head coach. And Jefferson insists his longtime friendship with Nuggets president Josh Kroenke wasn’t a primary factor in his choice to come to Denver.
“(Kroenke) tries to kind of stay out of those things,” Jefferson said. “This was not a personal decision. This was a professional decision.”
Jefferson watched the Nuggets blow a 15-point lead in their season-opening loss at Utah on Wednesday night, noting that this young group still needs to learn how to close out games. Jefferson was on the Nuggets’ practice floor within hours of signing his contract. Malone expects Jefferson to quickly earn the respect of his new teammates.
Perhaps soon, Jefferson will be staying after practice with young players such as Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.
“My job as a professional is not only to perform, but also put my team in the best position,” Jefferson said. “That could be helping with what I see. That could be working out with the young guys.
“The only thing I’m doing is what older players did for me when I was a young player. All I’m doing is paying it forward.”