No amnesty for Jefferson

By Jeff McDonald

HOUSTON – Meet the new starting small forward, same as the old starting small forward.

After a week of flirting with other small forwards, the Spurs will open the preseason tonight at the Toyota Center with Richard Jefferson still on the roster and the remaining three years and $30.5 million on his contract still on the team payroll.

Friday’s NBA deadline for executing amnesty on a player – waiving him in order to clean his contract off the books for salary-cap purposes – came and went without Jefferson being jettisoned.

The Spurs had been strongly considering releasing the 31-year-old Jefferson, but backed away when they couldn’t seem to attract a suitable replacement. Though amnesty is off the table for the 2011-12 season, the team could still use the one-time provision for next season beginning in July.

In two seasons with the Spurs, Jefferson averaged 11.6 points. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range last season, a career-high and fifth-best in the league.

“He had a hell of a year for us,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “I think he’ll just move forward from there.”

ROOKIE ORIENTATION: One Spurs rookie first-rounder is sure to make his NBA debut tonight. Thanks to Canada’s Citizens and Immigration Department, the Spurs’ other rookie first-rounder is at least eligible to.

Point guard Cory Joseph, the 29th pick out of Texas, received a work visa from his native Canada as expected Friday and joined the Spurs in Houston. He is scheduled to participate in his first Spurs practice with this morning’s shootaround, though it is uncertain if he will play against the Rockets.

Meanwhile, small forward Kawhi Leonard – the 15th pick in June – is eager to play in his first game in an NBA uniform, even if it’s just an exhibition.

“I’m just anxious to play really, just to see how the NBA-paced game is and get use to the atmosphere so I can get better,” Leonard said.

OH, HIM: Steve Novak, the former Marquette star who re-joined the Spurs Thursday was thrilled to go through his first practice on Friday, getting re-acquainted with most of the teammates with whom he played in the final three months of the 2010-11 season.

“I sure loved it here with the Spurs, so I’m very happy to be back,” he said.

Novak spent his time during the NBA lockout in his home base in Milwaukee, working out with Marquette players, past and present, including some NBA players.

“There were quite a few (NBA players),” he said. “Myself, Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Wes Matthews and, and — I’m forgetting one. There were five guys. Who am I forgetting? Oh, yeah, D. Wade. But he didn’t work out with us. He was just there a couple of days.”

That would be Dwyane Wade, All-NBA star of the Heat and MVP of the 2006 NBA Finals.
Wade and Novak were teammates at Marquette in 2002-03.

Novak, 6-10, believes he has a decent shot at making the Spurs opening night roster because the Spurs have only four NBA-experienced big men and because of his long-distance shooting ability.

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