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Playoffs Mailbox: Richard Jefferson

You watch the games, you see the scores, but how do you really know what's going on in the NBA Playoffs 2003? has infiltrated the action with the ultimate insiders -- the players themselves. We're giving you an exclusive look at the postseason with a roster of player mailboxes.

Richard Jefferson has made a big splash in his sophomore season, starting 79 games and averaging 15.6 points per game. Send Richard an e-mail question and we'll get his answers to the best ones and post them during first round.

Richard answered your second round of questions on Tuesday, April 29:

Q: Hey man, you are very fun to watch. When you guys are on your game, I don't know if anyone can beat you guys in the east. Have you changed anything in the postseason as far as mental preparation or handling the playoff pressure?
-- Jacob (Newnan, Ga.)

Jefferson: Not really. For the most part, it's the same as last year. Just stay relaxed, have some fun and enjoy the atomsphere.

Q: Richard, do you think the new best of seven format for the first round is good or bad?
-- Allen (Jersey City, N.J.)

Jefferson: I think it's bad. It allows lesser teams to try and stay in it a little bit longer. It doesn't allow better teams to finish off teams like they normally are capable of doing.

Q: You and Desmond Mason are two of the best young small forwards in the NBA. What is the hardest part about guarding him in this first-round playoff matchup?
-- Brad (Cincinnati)

Jefferson: Just his energy. He is one of the best movers away from the ball. He's just extremely tough to guard. His athleticism is equal to mine if not greater. He's just a tough competitor.

Q: Of every game that you played in the regular season, which was the most exciting one to you?
-- Serena (Eustis, Fla.)

Jefferson: Probably scoring my career high in the Garden. Madison Square Garden which is the most famous arena in the world and probably the greatest place to play in all of sports and I had my career high there.

Richard answered your first round of questions on Tuesday, April 22:

Q: Do you feel your team has improved enough compared to last year to win the championship?
-- Monica (Bergenfield, N.J.)

Jefferson: Yes, I believe our team is improved enough to win a championship. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this year, but with all of the things that we’ve gone through we still found a way to win the Atlantic and have some other success. Now that we are 100 percent healthy and have our whole team, I do believe we can win a championship.

Q: In your opinion, who are the teams to worry about in the East and the West?
-- Ben (Aiken, S.C.)

Jefferson: The West is so strong. Whoever comes out is going to have a tremendous amount of confidence going into the Finals. In the East, I really believe that we are our worst own enemies. If we do what we need to do and play at our capabilities, then there isn’t a team in the East that can contend with us.

Q: Who is your toughest one-on-one opponent during practice?
-- A.H. (Wyoming)

Jefferson: Tamar Slay. He is a very good player. With time, he’s going to grow and become a very good NBA player. Brian Scalabrine is tough because he goes so hard that he tends to hurt people.

Q: How did it feel to play in the Finals in your rookie season?
-- Jon (Florham Park, N.J.)

Jefferson: It was a dream come true that you didn’t even realize was happening. It happened so quick before I could really experience anything, I was in the NBA Finals when I woke up one day. It was unbelievable and I just hope I get another opportunity.

Q: Who is the one player you hate playing against? Who gives you the hardest time?
-- Candy (New York)

Jefferson: Andrei Kirilenko from Utah. He is so long and so athletic he moves around so much and in that Utah offense, he fits perfect.

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