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The New Jersey Nets made sure to keep Olympian Richard Jefferson. The Nets and Jefferson agreed to a multiyear contact extension Thursday that will pay him $78 million over the next six years, helping make up for the loss of Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles.
"Richard is a cornerstone player for us," Nets president Rod Thorn said. "We felt it was very important that we reach an agreement with him."
"We think Richard is a player on the cusp of being one of the top players in the league," he added.
Jefferson would have become a restricted free agent after next season.
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The announcement comes just weeks after New Jersey was forced to sign and trade Martin to Denver rather than match a proposed seven-year, $90 million contract. The Nets would have had to pay Martin $23 million in salary and front-loaded bonuses had they matched a planned Nuggets offer sheet.
The Nets were further dismantled when Kittles was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round draft choice.
Thorn said he told Jason Kidd of the signing Thursday morning at the Nets facility in East Rutherford, where the All-Star point guard is rehabilitating from knee surgery.
"Good," according to Thorn.
"I think it is a good point to everybody that we are still in business here, that one of the top young players in the league feels strongly about the Nets to plight his troth with us for a significant amount of time," Thorn said.
Jefferson, entering his fourth NBA season, averaged a team-high 18.5 points and 38.2 minutes a game last season. He also averaged 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.12 steals a game, appearing in a career-high 82 games.
The runner-up for NBA rookie of the year in 2001-02, the 6-foot-7 Jefferson was acquired by the Nets in June 2001 from the Houston Rockets.
Jefferson is currently playing for the U.S. Olympic team.
Thorn also said the team has reached an agreement with forward Eric Williams, provided he passes the physical. Williams finished last season with Cleveland.
The Nets are still talking with guard Ron Mercer, who was released in February from San Antonio, Thorn said The question is Is Jefferson worth 78mil?If someone else has posted a thread about this before me Hicks you can delete it.
Super Bowl XLI Champions 2000 Eastern Conference Champions