Ball Don't Lie - NBA

In an offseason full of what is probably going to be stunner after stunner, we have our first. Underwhelming and overpaid Spurs forward Richard Jefferson(notes) has opted out of the final year of his contract, leaving $15.2 million on the table to get away from San Antonio.

Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) pulling the same trick? We can understand. More money to be had up front, if he stays in Phoenix, if the leaks are correct, and more money to be had overall. Dirk Nowitzki(notes)? He might have to take an initial pay cut, but overall the move will be well worth it. Paul Pierce(notes) doesn't have the same guarantee after opting out of his final year, but we're inclined to believe that the Boston Celtics will reward loyalty and overpay.

Richard Jefferson? It's hardly the same story.

Jefferson's been trending downward for two years now, seen as an albatross in both New Jersey, Milwaukee, and San Antonio for three consecutive springs. New Jersey and Milwaukee had to pay to dump Jefferson when they traded the former All-Star, taking back cheaper contracts but also players that were pennies on the dollar in terms of talent compared to the talent usually associated with the size of Jefferson's contracts.

The Spurs? All they did was yell at Jefferson, a lot, for the entirety of his time in Texas. As Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "rode him hard," as the disappointing small forward went from appearing as the perfect fit for an older Spurs team on paper, to a poor shooting on-court liability completely lacking in confidence.

Now, to hear Jefferson tell it last April, he was considering opting-out because of the impending change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, and the sheer amount of teams with cap space this summer. As he told FanHouse:

"I probably wouldn't make 15 (million dollars) some place, but you could somehow recoup some of that over a multi-year deal and get some guaranteed money for the next few years.

"So you figure it out. If you're able to get four years and 40 (million dollars by opting out) from someone, it's like, 'OK, I did lose out on 15 (million dollars). But I'm going to get basically a $25 million extension.' Those are things that you think of at the end of the season.''

Apparently he's done thinking, and he's moving on with the early-termination option.

The problem with that is, I'm sorry, Jefferson's getting nowhere near four years and $40 million. If anything, a contract half that size would more than suffice, and that would probably be a contract he could muster next season (even if 2010-11 would be a repeat of this season, in San Antonio), on top of making the $15 million he was due to make this year.

League-wide sentiment, even in this open market with scads of teams with cap space, is that Jefferson is mid-level player at best, and I have a problem with even going that far. I honestly think Jefferson might end up getting a three-year deal worth around 18 million dollars, but as stated above, he could probably have gotten that next year, after taking in his final big season with San Antonio (and another team, as his expiring contract would probably have been shipped elsewhere). So that's $33 million (combined, between the two deals) by passing on the early termination, or $18 million signed this year after opting out.

Doesn't sound like a "$25 million extension" to me.

Two distinct elements are into play. The first allows for the thought that Jefferson's time in San Antonio was so ceaselessly untenable, that he had to get away, no matter the cost.

Or - and it should be pointed out that it is quite likely that both these elements are running concurrently - Jefferson is still overrating his own talents, making rash decisions, and acting on bad advice. Or no advice at all, which can still be pretty bad advice.

For whatever reason, unless there's some boffo deal that he has lined up that we know nothing about, this is a bad, move. Jefferson was going to get a contract no matter how poorly he played next summer, and he may have just cost himself a significant amount of money.

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