Wednesday night, just a few hours before the opening bell on 2010 Free Agency, San Antonio's Richard Jefferson threw a curveball. Err... What's crazier than a curveball? A knuckleball?
Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reported it first:
Christmas morning in Spurs front office with Richard Jefferson opting out of $15 million. Incredible.
Keep in mind: This isn't like Paul Pierce or Dirk Nowitzki opting out $20 million dollar deals. Those guys will make the same money, with more years on their deal. But Jefferson? He'd be lucky to make $5 million dollars next year. Any way you cut it, Jefferson's taking a pretty huge risk here.
Although it is a calculated risk, as Jefferson explained to AOL Fanhouse months ago:
That's a situation I think every player will look at at the end of the season,'' said Jefferson, making $14.2 million this season and due to earn $15 million in next season's final year of his deal if he doesn't opt out. "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.''
And indeed, there are reports that Jefferson could be in talks with the Spurs about a longer deal that would prorate the money he gave up in 2010-11. Again from Yahoo! Sports:
Sources said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been personally working out Jefferson in San Antonio. The free-agent forward could re-sign with the team at a number that lowers the franchise’s luxury-tax hit while guaranteeing him more money on the back end of a multiyear contract.
But again. You can rationalize this decision all sorts of ways, but any way you cut it, we're talking about a massive risk for Jefferson, and a huge coup for the San Antonio Spurs, who now have more flexibility than they ever imagined.
Personally, I think RC Buford and Greg Popovich blackmailed him. That had to be it, right? Did Richard Jefferson have a sextape that he didn't want the world to know about? A definite maybe.
And whatever RJ's reasons, it was the biggest surprise of free agency so far.