From the moment Richard Jefferson stepped in front of the microphones in his first press conference as a Denver Nugget, it was like a night at The Improv.
"I'm so old,” he said, “I don't care about what my playing role is.”
(Insert laugh track here)
The jokes and one-liners flowed out of Jefferson like water from a faucet.
Yet, Jefferson’s presence on the team was a much more serious thing. The Nuggets added him for his experience and his voice. They needed more veteran leadership. Jefferson embraced it right away.
"My job is to kind of get here and be the old grumpy man and make sure everybody's working and making sure guys are putting in that extra time," Jefferson said. "Because the first step is figuring out how to belong in this league, the next thing is figuring out how to contribute and the next thing is learning how to win."
There wasn’t an expectation for big playing time, and in fact Jefferson played sparingly, appearing in 20 games. Yet, he still became a hit with media, doing multiple interviews, and bringing along his popular “Road Trippin” podcast. And he became a hit with his teammates, providing advice at the right time or much-needed levity in a heavy moment.
In the end, Jefferson played the role he expected to near perfection. In an interview with the Boston Globe, he talked about the Nuggets, and his longevity, in greater detail.
“I think we really have young players that want to do well and excel in this league, if anything I’m more of a confirmation voice that they’re working as hard as they should and they’re playing as hard as they should,” Jefferson said. “After you hit about 10 years in this league you start to experience the [age difference] because guys that are 19 were 9 when you came into this league. The first time I heard that was Year 9 or Year 10, and it’s something that you get used to.
“People want to make it seem like old jokes, but at the end of the day I pray that everyone in this league gets to 17 years. I pray that every one of these guys gets an opportunity to play well past their prime. That’s a compliment to work ethic and health. As much as there’s jokes, there needs to be compliments said about guys that have the ability to stay around.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.