The Denver Nuggets made it official Thursday: They signed Richard Jefferson and waived Jameer Nelson. In doing so, Denver decided to swap out its veteran point guard for a veteran small forward.
Jefferson, 37, spent the last two seasons of his career in Cleveland. The Cavaliers traded him to Atlanta earlier this month. The Hawks then waived him, clearing the way for him to sign with Denver.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Thursday that he doesn’t expect Jefferson to compete for rotation minutes — at least in the early going.
“I think early on, him just getting here, just veteran leadership,” Malone said. “He won’t play right away. His number one goal right now is get acclimated. Be a veteran. And then stay ready because I have no doubt at some point he’ll be called upon.”
Jefferson averaged 5.7 points , 2.6 rebounds and shot 33.3 percent from 3-point land in 20.4 minutes per game last season. Jefferson said Thursday that he understands his role in Denver is primarily to mentor the team’s young players.
“I’m so old I don’t care what my playing role is,” Jefferson said. “I’m glad to have a job and contribute in any way.”
Waiving Nelson means that the Nuggets are giving more responsibility to Jamal Murray, 20, and Emmanuel Mudiay, 21. Murray started at point guard in the season opener against Utah on Wednesday. Mudiay came off the bench. Nelson’s departure also means that Will Barton, a natural small forward, will slide over and play point guard, too.
Barton scored a team-high 23 points in Denver’s 106-96 loss to Utah on Wednesday. Murray and Mudiay finished with eight points and two assists apiece.
“It didn’t go the way Emmanuel and Jamal wanted at times, but it’s not going to be easy for them,” Malone said. “I told Jamal, ‘You’ve got to have a short-term memory. You’re going to get your ass kicked a lot this year. But you’re going to be a lot better for it.’
“And Emmanuel, same thing. First-night jitters. Those guys have to calm down, run their team and pick their spots to be aggressive.”
The Nuggets committed 21 turnovers as a team, including 10 in a sloppy fourth quarter. They will try to get back on track in their home opener Saturday vs. the Sacramento Kings.
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