Portland Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries has never scored the buckets of points you might expect from a lottery pick, but the guy has serious value in the NBA nonetheless.
When the Washington Wizards took him out of Indiana with the 11th overall pick in 2002, they were more interested in his defensive abilities and versatility than his offense. Jeffries makes his teams better -- both on and off the court -- which is why he’s played for four organizations (including two separate tours with the Knicks) in a career that's 11 years strong. The Blazers are in L.A. tonight to take on the Lakers.
For the latest installment of "Team Player," Jeffries tells ESPN Playbook about his best NBA memories so far, from an epic playoff comeback to a former teammate who sterilizes his own silverware.
Which team was your favorite to play for?
The Washington Wizards team in 2004-05, with Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, Larry Hughes and Antawn Jamison. We played the Heat in the second round of the playoffs that year when they had Shaq and D-Wade. But that was only part of it. We got along really well. We were all best friends.
Is that the most talented team you’ve played on?
Probably. We had lots of talent and we also had size. We led the league in offensive rebounds that year. We had so much fun together. We were all young, so we were all at about the same place in our careers.
What did you do together off the court?
Everything. We went to movies together, we always ate dinner together. It was a good mix of guys. Larry was a little bit older than us. Antawn was, too. They knew all the good restaurants and places to go when we were on the road, so it was cool.
What’s your best road-trip memory?
It’s hard to pick one, but it would probably come from my rookie year when I played with Michael Jordan. Watching how everyone reacted to him when we went to different places was cool. To be the best in the world and handle all that attention the way he did. He never got rattled or upset with people. Everywhere we went there were crowds of people. Lots of media in the locker room. The fans always waiting for him outside by the bus. He still was able to focus and play at a high level at 40 years old.
Which of your teams has underachieved the most?
The 2009-10 Knicks. That was the year I got traded to Houston. We started out terrible, when we’d have hot streaks. I think that team was good enough to make the playoffs, but we just couldn’t stay consistent. We had terrible months and great months. It was a great group of guys. We were close to being a playoff team, and it was tough. They had to move a lot of us to get the team they have now.
Do you wish the front office would’ve kept that team together?
It’s not that. If we would’ve played at the level we were capable of, they would’ve kept us together. If you play the way you’re supposed to, most of the time things work out. If you underachieve, players get traded. Coaches get fired. That’s just the way the league is.
Who’s been your best teammate so far?
I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great teammates, but it’s probably Shane Battier. Shane did a really good job with the dynamic of the team we had in Houston. He was always putting guys in the right position, telling guys were to be and how to play. He did a great job helping everyone on that team play better.
How about the quirkiest teammate?
Mike Bibby. Oh my god. He’s so OCD about everything, he’s crazy. I can’t even describe everything he does. He’s like a walking comic book. To him, everything is dirty.
How did he touch a basketball without freaking out?
I don’t know. It’s weird. He probably had hand sanitizer in his sock. All I can say is it was an adventure going to a restaurant with him. He’ll only drink bottled water. He won’t drink water from the tap. He puts all the silverware in hot water before he eats with it.
Who’s the best cheerleader from the bench?
I played with Ronny Turiaf in New York, and he was the way he is now. He’s great at cheering guys on. He’s loud.
What’s the best game you’ve been part of?
When I was in New York and Jamal [Crawford] hit 16 straight field goals in the Garden against the Heat [in 2007]. Either that game or when we beat Chicago in the first round of the ’04-05 playoffs. We were down 2-0 to Chicago, and Gilbert hit the game winner in Game 3. We went on to win four in a row. It was just a back-and-forth game with missed free throws and made shots. Finally, with the game tied, Gilbert hits that shot and we go on to win the series. That’s what playing this game is all about.