DALLAS -- Richard Jefferson, who is entering his 14th year in the NBA, played in the Finals in his first two seasons and hasn't returned to basketball's biggest stage since.
Jefferson, who averaged 10.1 points as a starting small forward for the Utah Jazz last season, believed the Dallas Mavericks presented his best chance to compete for a championship this season. That's why he accepted a veteran-minimum deal instead of going elsewhere for more money.
That doesn't mean that Jefferson is willing to settle for a minimal role.
Jefferson understands that he won't be a starter for the Mavs, and he doesn't know how he'll fit in the rotation. He's determined to do everything possible to find a niche.
"I like to believe myself to be an everyday contributor," said the 6-foot-7, 234-pound Jefferson, whose 40.9 percent 3-point shooting last season piqued the Mavs' interest. "I have been for 13 of my 14 years, barring an injury-filled year in Golden State. For 13 years, I feel like I've been an everyday contributor, and I feel that I can be an everyday contributor here. Whether it works out that way remains to be seen, but my job is just to stay ready.
"I like to joke that you don't give them any excuses. You learn the 2 spot, you learn the 4 spot, you make sure that you're in great shape, you make sure that you're getting up extra shots. You make sure that you as a player are doing everything that you can do. If it doesn't go for you or if it doesn't work out, you don't want to look back on it and say, 'Well, maybe if I would have worked a little bit harder, maybe if I would have studied a little bit harder.'"
Jefferson didn't check into the game until the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's preseason opener and had a poor shooting night, but there were extenuating circumstances. He missed the previous day's practice due to a fever, prompting coach Rick Carlisle to limit his playing time.
On the whole, Carlisle has been encouraged by what he's seen of Jefferson, who is competing for playing time with Jae Crowder and Al-Farouq Aminu among others.
"For a guy of 34, he's bouncing around the gym just like all these young guys," Carlisle said. "I'm pretty amazed at his physical conditioning at his age. But he takes extremely good care of himself and all that stuff shows."
Jefferson, whose scoring averaged peaked at 22.6 points per game in 2007-08, certainly doesn't have the bounce that he did during his prime. He's evolved from a rim attacker to a floor spacer, from an offensive focal point to a role player.
Jefferson could find himself in Carlisle's stay-ready camp, a fringe rotation player who could see significant minutes one night and sit for the next few games, this season's version of Wayne Ellington. He's fighting to convince Carlisle that he should be part of the Mavs' bench core.
"I've been top 10 in the league in minutes, top five in the league in minutes, top 10 in in scoring, and now I'm a role player talking about trying to get in the rotation every day," Jefferson said. "Your game changes, your opportunity changes. When they say you're a professional athlete, it's not all glory. I'm out here working. I'm out here trying to prove myself."