Originally created 05/29/03

Jefferson getting tired of seconditis



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Richard Jefferson talks about basketball, he usually has a smile on his face and a confident tone in his voice.

But those traits were missing recently when Jefferson discussed the New Jersey Nets being in the NBA Finals for the second straight year.

Jefferson has a clear case of seconditis - he's sick of his team coming up second-best in the big games.

Two years ago, his Arizona squad lost the NCAA championship game to Duke. Last year, the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Nets in the NBA Finals.

The Nets are now waiting on San Antonio and Dallas to decide the Western Conference title so they know their opponents for the Finals.

"I'm in a weird position where I've been in three championships in a row and haven't won one," Jefferson said Wednesday before the Nets practiced. "After you lose the national championship game and then come into the NBA Finals, you say 'Hey that's cool, we're in the NBA Finals.'

"Now we're back there again," Jefferson added. "When you haven't won one of them, of course, you are going to be more businesslike. You understand what it means to get there. I want to win and finish the job this year."

Jefferson isn't the only New Jersey player showing less emotion.

After New Jersey swept the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals, there was no big celebration like the year before, when they beat Boston in six games.

While the Nets haven't said much about what they are telling each other, Jason Kidd and Lucious Harris both referred to the Buffalo Bills when talking about Jefferson's change in demeanor. In the '90s, the Bills went to the Super Bowl four times and lost each time.

"We're football fans," Harris said with a smile.

His comment about Jefferson was a little more revealing.

"You can't keep getting there and being the Buffalo Bills," Harris said. "You got to get there and you have to take care of business."

It's a comment that should be directed to the Nets as a whole.

Kidd, who took part in shooting drills on Wednesday, said being a bridesmaid twice just might be on Jefferson's mind.

"This is a different year and a different situation," Kidd said. "Hopefully sooner or later he won't be a Buffalo Bill, and we'll not just get him one; everyone wants to win one."

If the Nets are going to win this year, Jefferson is going to have to pick up his game in the final round. After averaging 15.2 points in the opening round against Milwaukee and 18.3 in the conference semifinal against Boston, Jefferson was held to 9.5 points by the Pistons in a series where he picked up 17 fouls in four games.

"I break down every game I play after I play," Jefferson said. "You take the last game, I shoot a great percentage, 7-for-12 and I don't get to the free throw line one time. That's something out of my control. I wasn't shooting all jumpers."

The only person who thought the situation was funny was Nets coach Byron Scott.

"He must be sick or something," Scott said of Jefferson being a little more serious. "If he is quiet it's not because he hasn't gotten the hardware. He isn't feeling good or something."