Richard Jefferson’s Moving Up

Richard Jefferson

by Adam Sweeney

Almost every fan of the Association has their most and least favorite team. The San Antonio Spurs would rank up there as an organization I’ve never been fond of. It probably started when David Robinson won the MVP over Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995 before getting beaten down like Apollo Creed in Rocky IV by The Dream. That was pretty much the end of the Rockets truly getting the best of S.A.

Having attended college about 25 minutes from San Antonio when they won their most recent title against the Cleveland Cavaliers, I was subjected to countless taunts about how great the team was. You want to see bias? Try showing a clip of Bruce Bowen kicking Ray Allen in his back to a Spurs fan. “It was an F’ing reflex! Bowen is anything but dirty,” I’ve heard before. Right, and Mark Cuban is a wallflower.

This past Playoff series for the Spurs against the Dallas Mavericks was a joke. If you’ve played rec or organized ball before, you’ve probably had a situation where you felt like you were running two-on-five. The Spurs did. Other than Tim Dunacn and Tony Parker, there was no offensive production. If Drew Gooden is your last hope, damn, I feel sorry for you. We aren’t in Kansas anymore. The odd thing is that I didn’t take as much satisfaction as I thought I would at seeing the dying light of the Spurs’ dynasty. It was inevitable. Teams get old and other teams rise up to fill their place.

I should have known better. San Antonio doesn’t roll that way. I had forgotten that the Spurs don’t rebuild, they reload.

On Tuesday, the Spurs made one of the most lopsided trades on paper in recent memory when they nabbed swingman Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee for Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas.

Oberto was then sent to Detroit for Amir Johnson, also known as the “Who the Hell cares” portion of the trade. I’m halfway kidding. Johnson could be a good option in the event Milwaukee loses Villanueva, a distinct possibility. It’s a matter of him turning his raw talent into something consistent.

The immediate winner of the trade has to be San Antonio, who now have a perimeter threat that can force teams to respect their offense, something that had disappeared on them like men at a club when the lights come up on Lady Gaga. Jefferson can play two positions and should fit right in. He is a nice kick-out complement to Tony Parker’s slashing style at the 1. By gaining the scoring of Jefferson, they’ve opened the window of opportunity for their Texas trio by a few more seasons. That’s all you can ask for if you’re a San Antonio fan.

The $25,000 question for most critics of the Spurs is whether or not they can keep Timmy, Parker and Manu Ginobili healthy. If this fantastic four can swat the injury bug, look out. The L.A. Lakers already have a few Western CoManu Ginobilinference opposers to their throne in Denver and Houston. The Jefferson deal may put San Antonio at the head of that list. Jefferson could help make this happen by carrying some of the scoring load that weighed Duncan and Parker down at the end of the season.

There were rumors that Manu Ginobili was being shopped around, which would have been disastrous to the Spurs in terms of chemistry and cohesiveness. We saw how much they missed him in the Playoffs. In this situation they didn’t really lose much by dropping Bowen, Thomas and Oberto. All were role players at this point. Yes, Bowen and Thomas were key figures for San Antonio on their vanilla flavored ride to the top, but this is a business. Bowen is lucky to be playing ball right now at all. He has said as much.

Other issues with San Antonio now come in the form of going over the luxury tax and having very little frontcourt help. This could change if the Spurs package draft picks on Thursday or go for a veteran this summer. After what happened today, and considering San Antonio is one of the most shrewd organizations on Draft Day (Let’s not forget they picked Parker at No. 28 in the first round and Manu at No. 57), I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull off a few more moves in the near future. That may include re-signing Bowen or Oberto to a lesser deal.

Milwaukee had no choice but to make a trade in order to have a chance to sign Charlie Villanueva and/or Ramon Sessions, both restricted free agents. We don’t have word yet if Villanueva has Tweeted “Ka-ching!” yet but we will look into it. The trade also allows them to stay under the luxury tax threshold by $7.5 million, which is huge. They don’t need Bowen or Thomas and can save more cash by dropping them like a pair of Adidas Kobe 2’s at Goodwill.

The deal was inevitable for the Bucks, who loaded their team with two many heavy contracts, so in a sense the best case scenario is to at least keep Big Villy Styles and Sessions. The Bucks seem likely to pick a point guard at the No. 10 spot in the Draft as insurance against Sessions’ departure.

I’d go into detail about what Fabricio Oberto could do for the Pistons, but I can’t do it without laughing. This move was about saving cap space and we all know it. The irony is that they may go after Villanueva as they continue to clear up cap room. Carlos Boozer has been the more talked about forward for Detroit but don’t overlook Detroit making a move for the Bucks power forward. If that happens and Villanueva accepts, the Bucks become the clear loser in this trade. And who is to say that Villanueva really wants to stay on a team that seems to take one step forward and two back? Honestly, would you want to play for Milwaukee? Anybody? Bueller. Bueller.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered for all three teams involved, but it looks like every team got what they wanted, something we can’t say in the classic Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown in principle trade. Wouldn’t Memphis have been better off asking for Kurt Rambis to come out of retirement instead of taking Kwame? At least they’d get a kick out of the high shorts and goggles. Still, I’d lay money down that Rambis would beat Kwame’s ass on the court to this day. Somebody print up a Rambis Lives shirt immediately.

Does the acquisition of Jefferson guarantee the Spurs are the clear cut threat to the Lakers’ chance of repeating? Hell no. Nothing is guaranteed when dealing with aging players like Timmy and Manu. Once injuries kick in, they seem to linger, which oddly enough is exactly what the Spurs are doing now. L.A. is still the best in the West but they now have to look in their rearview mirror more often in 2009. If all goes according to plan in S.A., the Spurs will be kicking up dust for a few more years.