There were times last night when it seemed like the torso and arms of recent Wizards D-League call up Othyus Jeffers formed into a mouth to gobble up missed shots in mid-flight. I imagined the ball clenched by massive teeth, unable to be relinquished, but somehow spit out cleanly to continue play, Wizards possession. I wasn’t hallucinating.
My mind was curious about the perception. How exactly was the unassuming stature of Jeffers — listed at a very generous 6’5” and weighing in at a 200 lbs. that unfairly masks his strength — able to gulp down rebounds so commandingly against the juggernaut Miami Heat?
DVR has made me selfish against real-life action. I wished I was at home watching the Wizards play the Heat on television and not sitting baseline taking photographs. No, I wouldn’t really give up one of the best seats in the house, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to quench instant gratification with a film study in the art of rebounding.
Jeffers finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting and eight rebounds, both career highs, in 29 minutes off the bench against Miami. The bad guys, or bandwagon drivers, beat the Wizards 123-107, but the game was much more competitive than the score indicates.
“O. Jeffers,” Flip Saunders called him in his post-game media session. “Just by playing hard, the success that you can have,” the coach trailed off, likely thinking like a mad scientist with plans to transplant the heart and will of Jeffers to another player with more size and natural talent.
Saunders shed high praise on his stop-gap player, saying he possessed a similar trait that all great rebounders have. Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley were cited by Saunders. He mentioned today’s great rebounders, but not great leapers, in Kevin Love and Zach Randolph as well.
“They’re guys that pursue the ball,” Saunders said, making the unifying connection. “That’s what ‘O’ does, ‘O’ really pursues the ball.”
Ask Othyus himself about rebounding and he’s rather nonchalant.
“It’s basketball. It’s nothing hard, I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Jeffers simply said after the game. “I’ve always played against taller people, that has nothing to do with it. Get in the right position, beat ‘em to the spot, jump and grab.”
It seems rather elementary.
Jeffers has appeared in eight games with the Wizards and has averaged 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes while on the court. That rebound rate won’t put him on par with conventional big men, but it’s certainly better than the 5.3 rebounds per 36 minutes that the 6’8″ Al Thornton pulled when he was with the Wizards. Plus, often being assigned to guard LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, Jeffers is counted on as a much better defender, not a wild cowboy of unconventional shot attempts.
After receiving a couple 10-day contracts from the Utah Jazz last season, and one with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this season, Jeffers was called up from the Iowa Energy for a 10-day spell with the Wizards on March 17, and was then re-upped for 10 more days on the 27th. Now the D-League wants him back.
Saunders said that three days ago, Jeffers’ D-League coach was calling Washington, wondering if he was going to be released by the Wizards, wanting help for the Energy’s playoff run.
Sorry, D-League, the Wizards need him. As bad as they are, I think they’re the bigger deal, especially when they provide a chance to suit up and guard the all-stars of the Heat.
Jeffers isn’t just a warm body to fill in for the tired, poor, hungry and injured. Well, he is, but he’s bounding through a small, opportunistic window nonetheless. Othyus is getting rebounds. He’s doing the little things. He’s setting an example.
I asked Jeffers about his D-League coach calling, wanting him back from the playoffs.
“See, that’s the first time I’ve heard that,” he said with a big grin. “Now I gotta call him and ask, ‘What’cu doing coach?’”
Later, Jeffers was asked if he missed being on the team that clinched the top seed heading into the D-League playoffs (while the contrast of being on the Wizards goes without saying).
“Do I miss it?,” he rhetorically repeated the question. “I miss the faces,” he replied, followed by surrounding laughter from the media. “I’m in the best place in the world right now, they’ll forgive me.”
In the video below, the conversation with Jeffers continues as he talks about going from the D-League to the big time, about where he gets his rebounding prowess, and about just who is Othyus Jeffers.
Othyus and D-Wade, both Chicago boys who have trained together at Tim Grover’s famed gym, exchange a couple of post-game words.