If there is one thing Richard Jefferson understands about his NBA career more than anything else it’s this: He’s made it to his 17th season due to his talent and a number of helping hands.
And, more than ever, Jefferson is willing to lend a hand of his own.
“My job, as a professional, is not only to perform but also put my team in the best position,” said Jefferson, speaking to media for the first time since signing with the Nuggets on Thursday morning. “That could be helping out with what I see, that could be helping 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.”
The 37-year old Jefferson had a number of players show him what it was to be a professional on and off the court, such as Alonzo Mourning, Lucious Harris, Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Dikembe Mutombo.
“I was so fortunate...learning so much of this game early on,” Jefferson said. “I was fortunate in that sense.”
And Jefferson arrives in town with a full resume, to say the least.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with LeBron (James), to play with J. Kidd, Tim Duncan – played with guys that are just perennial playoff guys,” Jefferson said. “I’ve been to the playoffs 13 times in my career. Been to the Finals four times. So, I’ve been fortunate to be on good teams.”
One of those good teams was an up-and-coming Golden State Warriors team in 2012-13 that featured Nuggets coach Michael Malone on staff as an assistant. Jefferson was entrusted with helping to bring along young stars in Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Kent Bazemore.
“I think he can have the same impact here,” Malone said.
Both Jefferson and Malone downplayed any on-court role for the small forward, at least early on. Malone said he does not immediately have Jefferson penciled in for playing time on Saturday against Sacramento.
“Right away, no,” Malone said. “It’s a long season, with 81 games left now. But I think we have our group, our rotation. Our number one goal right now is to get (him) acclimated, be a veteran, and then to stay ready 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. But to start off, I’m not penciling Richard Jefferson to play minutes against Sacramento.”
Jefferson doesn’t mind.
“I’m so old I don’t care what my playing role is,” he said with a grin. “I’m glad to have a job. I’m happy to contribute in any way. If I play, if I don’t play.”
He watched the Nuggets season opener at Utah. Overall, Jefferson likes the talent on the team.
“It’s very good,” he said. “I think they are talented. People don’t understand how hard it is to win in this league and how hard it is to do it consistently.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.