After playing in 1,301 regular-season and playoff games combined, Richard Jefferson made it to preseason game No. 5 of his 17th NBA season before the plug was pulled on his career, possibly for good. About an hour before Cleveland faced the Orlando Magic -- while Jefferson was on the court, getting shots up, and rookie Kay Felder was in the corner of the locker room, scrolling his phone -- news broke that the Cavaliers had agreed to a deal that would send Jefferson, Felder, some money and two second-round draft picks to the Atlanta Hawks for the chance to save a boatload of cash ($12.8 million in luxury tax) and stock their shelves with a couple of European players they'll keep stashed overseas for the time being. Given the complex nature of the deal, the trade was not official come tipoff. And so after being informed about the pending transaction, Jefferson and Felder were pulled out of the lineup. With nowhere to go since the team was on the road, they were left to sit in their warm-ups and watch from the bench as their last game as members of the Cavs organization played out in front of them. No one would blame Jefferson if he had been upset. No one would fault him if, after all the practices and shootarounds and bus rides and plane rides and hotel rooms and ankle tapings and ice baths and arena meals suddenly stopped, he ended up simply going through the motions, like Spike Lee's famous dolly shot from "Malcolm X." There, but not really there. Not R.J. Instead, you saw him halfway through the second quarter, when there was a break in the action and coach Ty Lue was calling for a massive five-man substitution, get up from his seat with the rest of the subs heading in, pretend to tear off his warm-up pants and even take a couple of steps toward center court to really sell the gag, as if he was going to sneak in with the group like a concertgoer trying to get through a crowded gate without a ticket. His teammates ate it up, and Jefferson returned to the bench wearing a smile so big you would have thought the Cavs just won Game 7 all over again.
Cavs nearly traded Jefferson in 2016 for leaking championship rings
ESPN | Oct 15