Richard Jefferson Press Conference
July 7, 2008
MILWAUKEE -- Richard Jefferson was at the Bradley Center on July 7 for an introductory press conference. The following is a transcript of the press conference.
Thanks for being here today. Sorry for the delay, as you know the weather we had this morning delayed some flights so we had some flight issues that we had to wait for. This is a good day in Milwaukee sports. The Brewers picked up a special one, I think, and hopefully good things will happen for them in that case and we feel the same thing about the guy sitting next to us right now.
Richard Jefferson has won every place that he’s been. He plays at Arizona and his team goes to a Final Four. He starts his NBA career with the Nets and they play in back-to-back NBA Finals. We’re talking about a guy who knows how to win, that has won. We know what kind player he is and what kind of man he’s been in this league. We’re very excited to have him here and we think he’s going to be a great addition to our team.
I co-sign on all of that. I’ve been a Richard Jefferson guy for quite awhile. I liked him when I was in Phoenix. Of course, he was a local kid there. As John said he went to Arizona. When the opportunity arose to get a player of this quality, when you’re coaching it becomes very exciting. He’s a guy, we wanted to add toughness this summer, he is a tough player. He can get out on the wing and you can throw ahead and he can finish. He can score in his own right. He’s got a post-up game. There’s a lot of things to like from a coaching standpoint. As I said, he’s a player that I’ve watched from afar and admired. I’m really happy he’s on my team right now.
What was your first reaction to the trade?
I knew there were a lot of things in the works. I didn’t know where or what was really going on, but after being with a franchise for a long time it’s tough to keep secrets. I really didn’t know anything and the crazy thing that made it even more hectic is that I was in the middle of my basketball camp. I was signing autographs for all the kids, it’s between the older kids and the younger kids and then my phone started ringing nonstop but I couldn’t stop signing and everyone was saying ‘you just got traded.’ It was kind of chaos because I was still in basketball mode being at the basketball camp and all the people were coming around.
It was a surprise and I didn’t know. There was no heads up. I found out and the next thing I knew my phone didn’t stop ringing for about a week.
What did you think about the trade?
I took a long time to mull it over. It was an emotional thing for me only because I wanted to be a Net for my entire career. Good and bad. We had good stretches and we had bad stretches but I wanted to be a Net. So when this happened I was upset because I was like even though we’re going through some bad times I’m still committed to this. After calming down and evaluating I looked at the opportunity here. An opportunity to get back to the playoffs and I really don’t think the Nets are going to be headed there in the next couple years. They’ve voiced that with some of the moves they’ve made. I think this (the Bucks) is a team that has great balance from the point guard position in Mo and on down to the bigs and the ones coming off the bench. Anything I can do to try and contribute to that, I’m excited about.
How can you help the Bucks defensively?
I think right now it’s an area in which I need to improve. I think the last few years people have criticized my defense a little bit. I’m still a person that believes in it. I understand that every good team I’ve ever been on we’ve had good defense. It’s an area, because of my role expanding the amounts of minutes I’ve been playing and the amount of scoring I’ve been asked to do, it has gone down.
It takes a little bit of a hit to your ego when people are talking about ‘you’re not as good defensively’ because that’s something I take pride in. It’s something I look forward to improving on and also having an impact. That’s probably going to be my focus now with a guy like Michael Redd and the balance across the board I don’t think there’s as much a need for me to ‘hey, we need you to score 25 points tonight.’ If you can go and stop their best player and give us 18, 19, 20, that’s where I’d like to be.
Did you have to be sold on this trade?
It wasn’t about Milwaukee. I could’ve been traded to Boston. I could’ve been traded to L.A. There’s not a place that I could’ve been traded to that I would’ve been happy. I’m one of the few guys that can honestly say that I was a part of something in kind of starting a franchise and getting it going. Being there with Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin and all those guys. It wasn’t about the city, it was more just about that feeling of rejection. The people that traded for you on draft day and the people that you’d had so much success. They went from seeing me not be able to hit a shot from outside 15 feet to being one of the top-10 scorers in the league. Those people are like my family there. I lived with them for seven seasons. They always will be. I love New York, I love New Jersey. The fans there have been amazing. I was there when we were in the Finals and the Finals games weren’t even sold out. I’ve been through a lot of stuff there in New Jersey. It wasn’t about the city, it was more about the trade than anything.
What are the prospects for this team next season?
I’m a cocky little guy. That’s why, I think Scott likes me. I think he’s seen that in me. Last season was a very difficult season for me and obviously it ended with the trade. I’d never not been in the postseason in my entire life. From high school, I’ll go back to junior high to my three years at Arizona and my first six years in New Jersey. Last year was the first time in, I’m 28-years-old, so I had a pretty good streak. So last year was very difficult for me. So I understand where they’re coming from. I understand changing the mentality. I need to start another streak. I believe that if you approach things with a good mindset and a positive attitude, good things are typically going to happen. There have been days where we made the playoffs on the last game. That means because you stuck through it all 82 – you didn’t give up hope, you didn’t let go, I was a part of a team in New Jersey that made the playoffs on the last game. Whenever you have had a certain amount of success you want to get back there. I’ve played against the Bucks in the playoffs. We had some battles with them. I know that this town, when they have a good team and everything is going great, will support them. They still had great support (this season), neither of us were going to the playoffs and they still had good support in the game, I think there were probably seven or eight games left, we played them here in this building. I’m a cocky dude. I believe that we’re going to have a good team. I believe that we will be in the playoffs. I think only the first four, maybe five slots are kind of stuck for the playoff situation barring injury or something crazy. We’re going to be one of those teams that is going to be fighting for those next few slots. Maybe we can move up even higher.
Do the Bucks still need a piece or two to get to where they need to be?
I won’t say no if they want to add more pieces. I think they have a very balanced team here. Talking with Rod Thorn before the draft everyone was very high on (Joe) Alexander. He’s a talented kid that a lot of people think his upside is tremendous. This is coming from my team, they really wanted him. Here I have an opportunity to play with a young guy who, from everything I’ve heard, is a competitor and he’s only going to push myself and some of the older guys. You need young guys. The best team I’ve ever been on had good young guys and they were pushing the older guys in practice. They were always making them work. A guy like him, you add that to your already talented backcourt, your already talented frontcourt, I think you’re in a good situation.
Is it good to be coming in with a new coach and new general manager to build?
It is. You have an opportunity. You have to look at it as an opportunity. Michael Redd is very, very talented. We’ve always had a good time on the court. You look forward to a new situation. I know the situation I was leaving was not the best one. Mainly because of the past season we had and the season they’re looking at, the next couple ones. This is obviously a great situation and I don’t know that I’d want to be in New Jersey given what they’re going to be doing up until 2010 and the move to Brooklyn. I don’t know if that’s a situation that any player would want to be in. Knowing that there’s going to be that transition phase. I’ve already done it once when they let go of Kenyon Martin and we really struggled that year. Then they started to pick it up again with the trade for Vince. I look at everything as an opportunity and this is a great one.
Was it a struggle to know that those days with Jason and Vince were over?
We had some success with that threesome. Once we lost Kenyon Martin things were never the same. Once we lost Kenyon, and Vince is an amazing player, we won a division and did some great things. Kenyon was somebody that we spent the next four years trying to replace and they’re still trying to replace him. They drafted Brook Lopez, Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Nenad Krstic. They’ve drafted four men consecutively to try and replace him. Once we lost Kerry Kittles that same year, we never found another person to run the wing with me. It was typically me and Jason on the fast break after a team that had four fast break guys. We never really recovered from that. Did we still work to become a good team. Yes, we were a solid team but I still stand by that was a tough stretch for us.
Did your parents instill in you to give back and be more than a basketball player?
My parents never really instilled anything; they kind of led by example. They never told me I should give money to people or I should give back to my school. It was more something I watched my parents growing up always opening their home to different people. Saving money to travel to go help other people. That kind of sticks in your brain and it’s more something you just learn from and watch. As a kid you don’t fully understand why you can’t have all the things that you want because your parents are saving money. But then I went on the missionary trip with them, you start to understand. It kind of puts things in perspective for you as – hey, I really don’t need these shoes or hey mom don’t worry about that stuff. I can get that someplace else or you can save that for my birthday. I don’t need those things right now - that’s probably the influence my parents had on me. No matter what was going on in my parents life, they were always positive. That’s kind of the outlook I have on life and everything in general. Coming here to Milwaukee, the initial frustration was more about the trade, nothing about the city. It’s a talented team, obviously, a better team than the one I’m coming from. You have to look forward to that. I’ll do my best.
What’s it like to be wanted here?
It’s awesome. I’ve heard multiple times from different people over the years how Scott Skiles tried to get me in Chicago. That gives me a little bit of a comfort knowing that the coach wanted me here, he’s going to work with me. I’m far from a perfect player. I made some solid gains in my game last season and it’s only from hard work and I’ve got to work just as hard to try and make the same gains this year. Sometimes to get out of that comfort zone or bubble that you’ve been in. To go to a new place and get a new outlook or get somebody that’s pushing you again. It’s more pushing instead of feeling like nagging. That’s not a knock on anybody I’ve played for. Hearing a different voice at times can help motivate you.
Are you a baseball fan?
Yeah. You can’t live in New York for as long as I did – and in my rookie year was the year the Diamondbacks played the Yankees in the world series – immediately I was really drawn into the baseball scene in New York. I didn’t have a baseball team growing up because the Diamondbacks didn’t get there until around ’98, I think they got there. I kind of grew up a Braves fan then I moved to New York and unless you feel like getting into a fight every other day you might as well become a Yankees fan. But the Brewers are looking nicer and nicer since I’ve been here.
What will it take to improve the chemistry here?
It won’t take much. It’ll take some time for us to get to our full capability as a team. As far as chemistry I think everybody understands that in order to be good, you have to give up something. I’ve been doing that for many, many seasons in New Jersey because I’ve been blessed to play with so many talented players. So you have to give up something for the greater good of the team and I think after the season that they’ve had – I know Michael (Redd) wants to win, I know the group of guys, Desmond Mason I’ve battled with. They have a lot of guys I know that are very, very competitive and probably weren’t happy with the way things went. I’m the exact same way so everyone’s coming in with something to prove and there are going to be a lot of eyes on us to see how well we jell. This was a major move. To put two guys that are both top-10 in the league in scoring on the same team. Me and Vince (Carter) were very similar but I think me and Michael might complement each other a little bit more. Vince was one of the most amazing players I’ve ever seen. I learned a whole lot about my game just from playing with him. I think here with me and Michael you have a little bit more of a balance. He’s much more outside. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen. I’m more of a slasher. We both do the other things well. I think with that we have a chance to have a very good team, especially in this conference.
Coach Skiles, do you admire his cockiness?
I don’t know if I admire that but I always kind of played the same way. I tend to gravitate maybe a little bit more toward people like that. I think what’s interesting to me about Richard is as time has gone on, he just mentioned finding more about his game playing with Vince, last year when it was kind of clear when Jason (Kidd) was moved and that they were going in another direction, he stepped up and carried the team and kept them competitive during that period of time when it would’ve been very easy to say I’m the next guy out the door. I think that showed something about his own personal confidence and belief in his himself. As a coach you have to like that.
What did you see in Richard when you had to game plan against him?
The main thing is his ability to get out and run, catch the ball and then make a productive decision. I know that sounds easy or simple, but it’s not. It’s hard to get guys conditioned to getting out and running. I haven’t talked to Richard about it yet, but a big part of it is playing with Jason (Kidd). You’re playing with a guy that will pass the ball ahead so you’re willing to get out and do that. But that habit is hard to create and he has that habit. We want to run, we want to look early offense and get it ahead to great players and let them make decisions and rest with the decisions they make. To me, that’s one of the main things. He’s been able to catch balls out there. He knows when to shoot it or when to drive it – get fouled, get to the line. Those decisions are critical.
Did Scott Skiles wanting Richard Jefferson when he was in Chicago influence you or is this a player you had targeted?
It really wasn’t about coming in with the mentality that we had to do something. It was an opportunity that presented itself. I said it the night of the trade and I’ll say it again with Richard sitting next to us. Anytime you can acquire a quality player like this, one of the top small forwards in the NBA, one of the top players at his position, if an opportunity presents itself like that you probably need to take advantage of it and we did so.
Are you a New York City kind of guy or a Milwaukee guy?
I’m a well-traveled kind of guy. I have my apartment in New York. I’m keeping my apartment in New York. I love New York City. I was born in L.A., grew up in Phoenix, I live in San Diego. My parents traveled a lot when I was younger. The one thing I learned about my parents is to keep an open mind about every situation. To appreciate everyone for their differences. The different cultures. Everything that different cities and different people bring. Milwaukee is not New York City, it’s not San Diego, but it has a lot of good things about it. I know the fans here are something that I look forward to. I haven’t played in front of packed houses on a steady basis since I was probably in college. The New Jersey fans were amazing. The ones that came out were loyal and showed us so much respect and really brought us in. They were really excited about having a quality team there. Our job now is to motivate the city of Milwaukee to come out here and support this team from the beginning. That’s when it starts. Sometimes they come out after you’ve won 10 in a row. Hopefully we can get a buzz about this team and let people know that we mean business from the start and we’re going to try and do our best to have a great season and make it into the playoffs. That starts not only with us, but also with the city, the fans to let people know that we expect good things and they should expect good things also and to come out and support it.
What do you know about Milwaukee?
I know some things about Milwaukee. [comment: you know it’s not San Diego] I know it’s not San Diego.
I look at this way. When I got traded to New Jersey I didn’t want to go to New Jersey. I got drafted by Houston and I was excited. I was ecstatic and all of a sudden 20 minutes later my agent was like no, I think you’re getting moved. That was a team that was in the Western Conference and were two games out of the playoffs. So I was excited and then I got traded to New Jersey who won 26 games, I think that year. We won 28, I think, in college so I was not excited about that. I look at it seven seasons later and I’m upset that I got traded. I didn’t want to go there and then I was mad when I left. I have an open mind. New Jersey wasn’t exactly the hot spot in the world when we went there. It was kind of the laughingstock of the NBA kind of similar to what the Clippers were in the mid-90’s. A lot of high picks and not a lot of good teams. We kind of changed the whole mentality of that organization and it was New Jersey. We embraced it and we ran with it and now New Jersey and the tri-state has a special place in my heart. I look forward to trying to accomplish the same things here.
Are you excited about taking on a leadership role with the Bucks?
I think it’s everybody. It’s everybody’s team. To whom much is given, much is required. If you’re a person that’s being paid a lot of money obviously there’s going to be more focus on you, but the best teams I’ve ever been on and I’ve been blessed to be around talented players, everyone from the bottom guy that might not be playing much to the guy that’s playing the most – you all have to push each other in order to have a successful team. If it’s just two guys trying to carry everybody else and push everybody and motivate everybody, that will get draining on that individual. When I was a rookie it could’ve been Kenyon screaming at me and then there could be days where he was dragging and I could scream at him – let’s go, this is what we have to do. It’s not one person, it’s not two people. It’s an entire team. Yes there are leaders in the that group, but I think the entire team has to step up and understand that it’s going to take another level for us to get to where we want to be.
Will you accept more responsibility?
I haven’t really followed Milwaukee and I don’t know how long ago it was that we played them in the playoffs. Every team goes through transition stages and this is a new stage for this team. Will I take more of a role? I let my basketball do the talking. I’m a person that at times, me and Scott (Skiles) are friendly right now, but there will be a time where he cusses me out. Everybody needs motivation, everybody needs a little poke.
That’s a pretty safe bet and you’ll probably do the same right back to me. (laughing)
I’ll probably keep mine under my breath a little more. I’ll take that role. We can all say the right things right now. I enjoy winning, I enjoy competing on a daily basis. If that means taking more of a leadership role then so be it.