Saturday, April 5, 2008

Unsung Player Day: Part I

I debated on this a lot.

You have to understand, Unsung Player Day is the kind of idea that sparked HP. An appreciation not for the disgustingly obvious, but the subtle. So I argued on the topic a lot. And there are too many. In the end I narrowed it to two, and I'll be discussing them in separate posts.

First up?

Richard Jefferson .

Imagine this: You've been in the league for going on seven years. You've been to the NBA Finals. You've played with a Hall of Fame player. Your scorer teammate is one of the most explosive players in the NBA.

And then it all falls apart.

Your team can't get over the hump. Even with its star power, it can't overcome it's shortcomings down low. Your Hall of Fame point guard gets restless. Your explosive teammate is referred to in some circles as "Half-Man, Half-Season." This season it all falls apart. Just as you're coming into your prime, your point guard decides he's had enough and demands a trade. It's difficult to move such a player, and as the season drags on, the team morale dips and its season is dragged into putridity. Finally, with the season lost and your partner only showing up when he feels like it, the trade is completed. You get some young pieces, a talented young point guard who will only improve but isn't there yet, and some younger assets, as well as the cap room for your GM to pursue talented players next year. But in all honesty, this season has had nothing to offer you from the get-go. You've got your long-term contract. Why try, really?

Thing is, you're Richard Jefferson. And that's not how you play.

Jefferson has shown up and been a leader for this team this season. And even though his rebounding numbers are down, he goes to battle every night. In a game earlier this season, Jefferson got nailed in the head by an elbow. It cut open his eye pretty deep and dazed him pretty bad. He went to the locker room to get stitches. If this was Vince Carter, or about 70% of the stars in the league, that would be it for him. "Thanks, but I'll take the rest of the night off. "

Jefferson came back out and busted his tail on both ends of the floor.

Jefferson has a great combination of size, experience, ball handling, versatility on offense, defensive discipline and work ethic. He can get beat by the best, but he's going to make them work for it. He's scoring more than ever, pushing himself and his team, trying to lead by example.

He's never going to be the focus of the Nets, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him traded, especially if/when the Nets move to Brooklyn and decide to become witnesses. For now the focus is on Carter's explosiveness, and lack of leadership, and Harris and the future of what's possible.

But every night, Jefferson comes to play and busts his ass against superior team.

A warrior.

A leader.

A professional.

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