Jefferson still with Spurs, but maybe not for long

Richard Jefferson is still with the San Antonio Spurs, but maybe

for not much longer.

Jefferson reported for training camp Friday but did little to

quiet speculation that the Spurs are actively trying to get rid of

their starting small forward, who arrived in San Antonio to great

fanfare in 2009 but has disappointed in two underachieving

seasons.

”Things happen, things change, but right now I’m a San Antonio

Spur,” Jefferson said.

If the Spurs can find a replacement for Jefferson, who will make

$9.2 million this season, they might waive him under the league’s

amnesty provision. Free agent Josh Howard is among the free agents

who’ve spoken with the Spurs already.

Asked about Jefferson’s future, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

simply said the 31-year-old is on the roster right now like anyone

else. Last season, Popovich benched Jefferson the second half of

their final playoff game, a Game 6 loss to eighth-seeded Memphis in

the first round.

The Spurs gave Jefferson a restructured four-year deal last

summer. He’s owed $30.4 million over the next three years.

”We didn’t amnesty anybody,” Popovich said Friday.

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili was more candid. Although Jefferson

didn’t shirk from questions about whether his days in San Antonio

were numbered, he was rescued when Manu Ginobili sneaked up behind

him and wrapped him in a bear hug.

Someone joked it was Ginobili’s first assist this season.

”It’s very difficult. Luckily I’ve never been in that

situation,” Ginobili said. ”I empathize with him. But it is what

it is. We got to make him feel comfortable if he’s going to be with

us. We had a great run last season and we want to do another one.

It’s sad, but it happens.”

Another question mark for the Spurs if forward Antonio McDyess,

who appeared set to retire after 15 seasons but may still be back.

He wasn’t at training camp Friday but Popovich wouldn’t rule it

out. Among the few new faces was guard T.J. Ford, who will be Tony

Parker’s new backup after the Spurs traded George Hill to

Indiana.

The Spurs traded for Jefferson in 2009 to add some scoring

punch. Jefferson had averaged 19.6 points the previous season in

Milwaukee, and 22.6 points in New Jersey the year before.

So assured were the Spurs of Jefferson that they took on his

$29.2 million contract over two years. Popovich said at the time

that Jefferson was as good a player as the Spurs might have picked

up during the free agent bonanza of 2010, and that waiting might

have been a gamble.

But it was a rocky fit from the start. Jefferson bumbled through

his debut season struggling to learn a new system, and Popovich

spent last summer working with him one-on-one. There was progress

as Jefferson became a corner 3-point specialist, but he still

underperformed. He averaged 11 points, the lowest since his rookie

year.

Jefferson declined to speculate whether he would remain for a

third season.

”We’re not children. We’re not little kids that we want to feel

wanted and stuff,” Jefferson said. ”You want to work. You want to

enjoy your environment, not necessarily feel wanted. Because you

could feel wanted in a situation where you don’t want to be

in.”