Jefferson back with Spurs

Updated: July 22, 2010, 9:39 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Richard Jefferson was an overpriced $14 million swingman in San Antonio last season.

His new deal will likely give the Spurs more for their money.

The Spurs re-signed Jefferson to a multiyear deal Wednesday, nearly a month after the nine-year veteran opted out of a guaranteed $15.2 million next season. Terms of his new deal weren't disclosed, but Jefferson had been willing to give up the final year of his bloated deal for longer-term security.

"To him, being able to secure his future under the current set of rules that we're living under, eliminates some uncertainty," Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said.

Jefferson did not meet with reporters. His agent, Todd Eley, did not immediately return messages Wednesday.

Although his new salary wasn't immediately known, the Spurs will be paying less for the 30-year-old Jefferson, who was San Antonio's fifth-leading scorer last season while earning a salary second only to Tim Duncan.

Jefferson averaged 12.3 points last season -- his lowest since his rookie year -- while struggling to adapt to a new system. A career starter, Jefferson came off the bench at one point while the Spurs tried figuring out how to best use their prized new addition.

But the Spurs stuck by him, even after the season ended without Jefferson making the big splash that many expected.

"He's played well with his last contract. He played more efficiently than his numbers might have shown," Buford said. "I think the option of coming into a new team with three established players, some playing injured during the season, was a difficult time for everybody."

Jefferson was also no doubt motivated to sign a new deal before the NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires next summer, which many expect could result in a lockout.

Just before the NBA's blockbuster free agency period began July 1, Jefferson walked away from the final year of a 6-year, $78 million deal he signed with New Jersey in 2005. Back then, Jefferson was among the NBA's best young scorers and was coming off averaging 22.2 points in his fourth year in the league.

The Nets shipped their leading scorer to Milwaukee in 2008. Jefferson then played just one year before the Bucks, eager to gut their roster and rebuild, traded Jefferson to the Spurs in a lopsided swap for three aging bench players.

By getting Jefferson, the Spurs were using the money they might have otherwise spent this summer. Coach Gregg Popovich said then that with the uncertainty of free agency, they couldn't pass up getting a player of Jefferson's caliber.

Jefferson's return means the Spurs will largely remain the same team that looked like a dangerous sleeper in last year's playoffs before being swept by Phoenix in the West semifinals.

Their biggest addition was Brazilian center Tiago Splitter, San Antonio's heralded 2007 draft pick who was MVP of the Spanish League last season. The Spurs also picked up Oklahoma State swingman James Anderson in the draft last month.


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