In Q and A’s with James Herbert of CBS Sports, Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Michael Scotto of The Athletic, Richard Jefferson, then of New Jersey, now of YES, talks about his days in New Jersey with the Nets two Eastern Conference champions and how desperate he was to get that ring in 2016 with the Cavs after failing twice with the Nets.
Here’s a sampling...
On working with Ian Eagle and YES:
Herbert: “Ian has been calling the game since I was a rookie, and I think our familiarity with each other definitely helps. He knows my little off-the-wall sense of humor. I get his. And he’s another one of those guys, you see this man putting in the work. He calls all the major sports. He’s one of the best voices in all of sports. You see his preparation and his work. He’s just so, so good. He keeps giving me advice, I keep telling him I want to be great. Anytime he can see something, I’m coachable. I’ll learn. I’ll get better. I’ll understand. He’s just been doing a really, really good job of helping me to pick my spots, learn the timing...
“I have to give credit to a lot of other people. Frank DiGraci, he works for the YES Network, he’s the producer, he has called me every summer for three straight summers, saying, ‘Hey, are you going to retire, are you going to come to us?’ And I was like, “Frank, if I don’t play basketball, you will be my first call’.”
On being drafted:
McMenamin: “At first, I didn’t want to play for the Nets.
“I got the call that I was drafted by Houston. And being the young, confident kid that I am, I was like, “Yo, they were one or two games out of the playoffs, and it’s Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley and me? We’re good.”
“My high school team was named the Rockets. They were the Rockets. I was like, “This is meant to be. I’m really excited. This is awesome. I’m in the Western Conference.”
“Then, 15 minutes later, they’re like, ‘Oh, hey, you’re traded to New Jersey for Eddie Griffin.’
Scotto: “Then, a day or two later, Jason Kidd got traded and I personally, maybe it was just being young and dumb, but I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to be good.’ I was that young kid that just thought that.”
On partying after beating the Knicks:
Scotto: “When I was a rookie, again, this is pre-social media and all this other stuff, the only thing you had to worry about was Page Six. No one knew who I was, so I could go and party all the time, but the minute I became a professional — there’s a difference between being an NBA player and being a professional, right? — once I became a professional, I realized there was no going out the night before a game.
If I had buddies that came into town from other teams, I’d go and say hello and maybe meet up and go to dinner, but I just realized I couldn’t go out the night before.
Now, the night after a game is a completely different story. The night after the game we’d go everywhere. I remember the first week that Marquee opened and Me and Jason Kidd are in there. I remember going to Suede, which was a great spot for a lot of years and is probably still pound-for-pound one of the best clubs maybe in the history of New York.”
On how close the 2003 NBA Finals were:
McMenamin: “Years later, I was sitting with Tim Duncan, and I admitted we had no chance against the Lakers in 2002. We were all inexperienced. The Lakers were a f---ing behemoth.
“But that next year, that next season, we were confident, we were primed. We won 10 straight games going into the Finals. That’s pretty hard. We might have made it look easy when we did it in Cleveland, but that’s pretty hard.
“Now that we were on the same team, I said, “Tim, what’d you think about the Finals we played?” He was like, “I thought it was 50-50.” It was the same for us. I thought we had a chance.
“What made the difference? What gave them the edge in beating us 4-2?
“We didn’t lose because Jason Kidd was s--- or because Tim Duncan was so incredibly dominant. That wasn’t it.
“The people who played extremely well for them were Steve Kerr, Speedy Claxton, Malik Rose, those guys. The guys 10 through 13 in the rotation -- those random spots that shined in their roles.”
On joining YES and what he misses from the game:
Scotto: “Yeah, I miss playing. Like everybody else, I miss the camaraderie, but I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the individuals that I do. It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m just trying to maximize it.’
Herbert: “I’m 100 percent at peace with not playing basketball. I really am. Maybe I’ll have a moment a year from now or this summer or sometime where I’m really kind of just a little freaked out or something, but I’ve worked so, so much and so, so hard. It’s kind of eerie, but I played 17 years. And last year was a difficult year because of my situation, being in a role that wasn’t really -- it was a veteran role, which I was OK with, but missing the playoffs and feeling like I could have contributed but they decided to go a different route, that part was hard.”
And about being able to dunk late in his career:
McMenamin: “It was just so much fun, and I was extremely blessed to have such a good string of health that it allowed me to do it in latter parts in my career. When I dunked on MKG, I just put him in a body bag, and I was 34 years old.
“To be in my mid-30s and still be dunking on people, that is so rare. That’s probably what I am proudest of in my game.”
There’s a lot more.
- After 17 years in the NBA, Richard Jefferson is a rising star living his other dream - James Herbert - CBS Sports
- Richard Jefferson, in his own words: I’m going to miss dunking on people - Dave McMenamin - ESPN
- Q&A: Richard Jefferson reflects on his Nets tenure, clubbing in New York and other valuable stops in his career - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York