The New Jersey Nets have a different look since the last time the Orlando Magic played them, a little less than three weeks ago. The Nets traded Jason Kidd, one of the game's best point guards and in return received point guard Devin Harris, shooting guard Maurice Ager, center DeSagana Diop and small forward Trenton Hassell.
Since trading Kidd, the seven year veteran has taken over on offense, scoring 94 points in a three-game span. The Nets are 2-1 in that stretch and Jefferson knows that it won't be easy without Kidd, so he will take it slow and work his way into a flow without the future Hall of Famer feeding him perfect pass after perfect pass.
"I didn't get into a rhythm in that first half," said Jefferson after his 36 point performance over Indiana on Saturday. "I tried to calm myself down in that second half and take what was given to me."
Jefferson has had help from former All-Star Vince Carter, who has scored 74 points since Kidd's departure, and the tandem is proving hard to stop. What makes Jefferson such a good compliment to Carter is his ability to drive the lane and draw defenders into him.
At 6'7, 230 lbs, Jefferson is having a career year after coming off an injury plagued 2006-2007 campaign in which he averaged only 16.3 ppg. Now Jefferson is putting up 23 ppg., and is giving opponents fits. With his rare combination of size and athleticism, it's hard to find a player who can match up with Jefferson, as he can take slower players off the trouble or back down smaller defenders.
In addition to his usual assortment of offensive moves, Jefferson has also shot more effectively from 3-point range this season, making a career high 37% of his shots from behind the arc. While he isn't considered a great set shooter, Jefferson has added a consistent jump shot to his arsenal, a large reason for his improved scoring.
Jefferson has also shown over the years that he is a complete player, providing more than just the ability to score. He is a solid rebounder (his career average is over 5 rpg.) and an above average defender. Again, Jefferson relies on his size to be more physical than his opponents, and other teams can't take advantage of him when he's on D because of it.
A former U.S Olympian, Jefferson has never carried a team before, but he is off to a great start. A real test for him will be Tuesday against the Magic, who traditionally play him tough. This season, Jefferson is averaging 13 points against Orlando in the three games and also only averaged 18 points against them last year. Hedo Turkoglu will likely have the task of guarding Jefferson, and as an underrated defender, Turkoglu might be able to slow him down yet again. However, Orlando will also have to keep Carter under control, so the Magic definitely won't be able to walk over Jefferson, Carter, or the rejuvenated Nets.
Looming Large: Richard Jefferson
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