Jefferson gets $78M extension from Nets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets made sure to keep Olympian Richard Jefferson.

The Nets and Jefferson agreed to a multiyear contact extension
Thursday that will pay him $78 million over the next six years,
helping making up for the loss of Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles.

"Richard's work ethic over the past three years has produced a
significant development in his basketball performance," Nets
president Rod Thorn said. "The Nets management feels very strongly
that Richard will continue this upward spiral and be a cornerstone
of this franchise."

Jefferson would have become a restricted free agent after next

The announcement comes just weeks after New Jersey was forced to
sign and trade Martin to Denver rather than match a proposed
seven-year, $90 million contract. The Nets would have had to pay
Martin $23 million in salary and front-loaded bonuses had they
matched a planned Nuggets offer sheet.

The Nets were further dismantled when Kittles was traded to the
Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round draft choice.

Jefferson, entering his fourth NBA season, averaged a team-high
18.5 points and 38.2 minutes a game last season. He also averaged
5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.12 steals a game, appearing in a
career-high 82 games.

The runner-up for NBA rookie of the year in 2001-02, the
6-foot-7 Jefferson was acquired by the Nets in June 2001 from the
Houston Rockets.

Jefferson is currently playing for the U.S. Olympic team.