Sports are full of clichés, I know, but indulge my inclination to explain one that’s been on my mind the past couple of days:
“Timing is everything.”
It’s not your typical mindless sports truism a la “They just wanted it more than we did,” but it’s got some relevance.
Utah Jazz forward Richard Jefferson put it in my mind.
“If I get an opportunity to play for a championship team, I’m going to go hunting for that,” Jefferson told NBA analyst and former player Kenny Smith on SiriusXM’s “Off the Dribble” last week. “I have no loyalty. I’m not one of those guys that played for the same team for 15 years like a Reggie Miller, who has to decide whether or not he’s going to do that. No. I’m a gun for hire.”
In a vacuum, his words are benign.
He certainly isn’t the first athlete in the twilight of his career willing to latch on with a contending team in the hope of winning a championship. And he won’t be the last.
Furthermore, as a player who’s bounced from the Nets to the Bucks to the Spurs to the Warriors to the Jazz, he has the luxury of not having to worry whether jumping ship to pursue that ring will taint his legacy.
Going from his fifth team to a sixth will not significantly alter the scope of how his career will be viewed in hindsight, should anyone even bother.
That is, however, a consideration for the likes of, say, Karl Malone, who spent his entire career with the Jazz save for that final season when he joined forces with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Gary Payton on the Lakers in search of a title.
Is The Mailman’s career now perceived differently?
Perhaps. But back to Jefferson.
I prefaced my comments by saying, “In a vacuum, his words are benign.” And I prefaced THAT by saying, “Timing is everything.”
Playing pro sports puts Jefferson about as far away from a vacuum as is possible. And so, with the benefit of context, I can say that his talk of title “hunting” is perhaps the right idea, but at the wrong time.
Remember a few years back when yet another Jazz forward, Carlos Boozer, told ESPN in a mid-game interview he would definitely be opting out of his contract at season’s end?
Based on what he knew he could get on the open market, he had the right idea. Based on him being in a suit on the sideline, missing another long stretch of games due to hamstring problems, it was bad timing.
When Jefferson becomes a free agent this summer, he can cherry-pick his new team and he’ll be but a footnote in the Jazz’s history book.
But in the present, when he’s being counted upon to be a veteran voice of reason on a team of young players trying to find their way in this league, it’s a bit off-putting.
Here’s another cliché you should familiarize yourself with, Mr. Jefferson: “We’re just taking it one game at a time.”