SALT LAKE CITY -- Don't put Richard Jefferson out to pasture just yet.
The 33-year-old veteran likely has seen his most productive days in the NBA but that won't keep him from contributing to the Utah Jazz this season, not as a mentor and certainly not as a player.
With training camp now up and running at close to full speed, the Jazz are starting to get a feel for what they might look like when the 2013-14 season gets underway later this month. Jefferson, whom Utah acquired from Golden State as part of a three-team trade, figures to be a part of the picture.
He probably won't be a 22-point-a-night scorer like he was with the Nets back in 2004, but the always-cool small forward won't be relegated to the role of cheerleader either.
"I'm just looking to contribute in any way," Jefferson said. "Hopefully it's on the court, if not it's going to be mentoring some guys, whether it's Gordon (Hayward), whether it's Alec (Burks), whoever it is, I just want to contribute."
With a trip to the NCAA Tournament finals (Arizona, 2001), The Olympics (Team USA, 2004) and a couple of trips to the NBA Finals (Nets, 2002, 2003) Jefferson's basketball resume is solid, if not impressive. When healthy, his ability to contribute to a team's success is unquestioned. But he has been plagued by various injuries throughout his career and he appeared in4just 56 games with the Warriors last season, averaging a career low 10.1 minutes per game.
He was sent to the Jazz in July along with center Andris Biedrins and guard Brandon Rush in what was seen as a salary dump for Golden State.
In the final year of his contract, Jefferson is due to make just over $11 million this season, the most on the team. That's a lot of money for a player on the down side of his career but Jazz officials believe his experience and professional attitude can help their youthful team.
From a purely business standpoint they also like Jefferson's expiring contract, which theoretically could prove valuable at the trade deadline. For now, however, his experience in the league and ability to mentor young players means a great deal to the Jazz.
"He's been a pleasant surprise, he's in great shape first of all, he has experience being around this league and guys respond to him," head coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He knows how to play."
"He's an elder statesman," Corbin added. "A really old statesman for this group."
Corbin said Jefferson's work ethic is excellent and, as a veteran, he understands how to pace himself in practices and scrimmages.
"I think he's a guy everyone can look up to as far as he's been in a league a while and proven to be able to do a lot of things," Hayward said. "He knows some sneaky maneuvers and kind of has that veteran presence. He knows how to play the game."
Clearly, the Jazz are excited about the possibility of Jefferson setting an example for their young players. And he admits he enjoys being a mentor, but he also feels he can help on the court.
"There was a time when I was scoring 20 points a night," he said. "That's not going to be my role (with the Jazz). I understand that. Will it be playing 20 minutes? Will it be playing five? I know I can contribute if I don't step on the court and I know I can contribute if I play 20-plus minutes."
In the coming days and weeks that role will be more clearly defined. But given Utah's youth and inexperience, Jefferson's longevity, skills and good physical condition will come in handy.
Contact reporter Jim Burton at 801-625-4265, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo.