Richard Jefferson still watches game tape. He fires up NBA League Pass to review his performances. He checks in on his peers and his competition, trying to see if he can steal a trick or two. He believes his job cannot be done right if you just show up to the arena without having done the proper preparation.

This season, though, Jefferson's focus has shifted. When he talks about working on his efficiency, he means the ability to communicate clearly in short soundbites with a slow, easy cadence.

"I watch games now with a completely different mindset," Jefferson told CBS Sports. "I don't necessarily always watch basketball games to see what's going on with the basketball game. I watch basketball games to listen to how Mark Jackson speaks or Reggie Miller or Chris Webber. What can I take from them? Listening to their timing, figuring out what I would say and how I would say it in those moments. Very similar to a kid who's watching his favorite basketball player and then going out in the park and trying to emulate that move."

Sometimes, retirement can lead to an identity crisis. For Jefferson, this was not an issue. Six years ago, he attended Sportscaster U, a class developed by the National Basketball Players Association at Syracuse University's Newhouse School. He started dabbling in media during his playing career, unsure if he'd even like it. Soon enough, he was co-hosting the popular Road Trippin' podcast, regularly appearing on Cleveland Cavaliers telecasts as an analyst and doing guest spots on ESPN. Now, in the world of broadcasting, he is a rising star. 

Last Wednesday, Jefferson appeared on ESPN's Get Up! in the morning and did Brooklyn Nets color commentary for YES Network at night. The next morning, he got up early to do Get Up! again. You can also catch him calling Pac-12 games, and you might have seen him on CBS' The NFL Today this past Sunday. Talking about his new craft after 17 years in the NBA, the 38-year-old sounds a lot like a young player trying to establish himself.

"I'm busting my tail, and I'm enjoying every second of it," Jefferson said. "And I'm just trying to learn as much as I can."

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity and flow. 

CBS Sports: Right as the Nets-Knicks game started, you took a moment to say you were looking over at Clyde Frazier, sitting next to Ian Eagle, and you said, "I am living a dream." What did that moment mean to you? 

Richard Jefferson: That moment was huge, man. I called a game in the Garden before I called a game in Brooklyn. And it's Madison Square Garden. It doesn't matter if you want to be in media, if you want to be a sports person, if you want to be a musician, Madison Square Garden is one of the pinnacles. If you can say that you played there, you sang there, you performed there, you called a game there, that's the place. It was -- it's still so exciting. And very surreal. I'm sitting center court, and Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier are right there, and I'm sitting next to Ian Eagle, and I'm just like, where am I?

CBS: You get to work with Ian, and you've said it's like playing with LeBron James or Jason Kidd or Magic or Michael Jordan. How has he helped you make this transition?

R.J.: Ian has been calling the game since I was a rookie, and I think our familiarity with each other definitely helps. He knows my little off-the-wall sense of humor. I get his. And he's another one of those guys, you see this man putting in the work. He calls all the major sports. He's one of the best voices in all of sports. You see his preparation and his work. He's just so, so good. He keeps giving me advice, I keep telling him I want to be great. Anytime he can see something, I'm coachable. I'll learn. I'll get better. I'll understand. He's just been doing a really, really good job of helping me to pick my spots, learn the timing.

CBS: You are very much yourself on TV, but was it always easy? Was it a process to get there?

R.J.: Yeah, it is very difficult. But there's also layers to it because I'm learning a new form of media, calling games. The podcast is longform. You can't have five seconds of silence in a podcast. Silence is death in a podcast. So you just constantly talk, you constantly talk. My first couple of games, I was talking a ton. But you have to allow the silence to do the work. And one of the things Ian taught me was, like, no, look, in basketball there's never really silence because you'll hear the squeaking of the shoes, you'll hear the bouncing of the ball, you'll hear the crowd, you'll hear the defensive chants. So, being more comfortable in silence is something that is a skill that you have to learn. Being myself on the podcast came easier. Being yourself in short bites in 10 seconds, in five seconds, in three seconds, that's timing. That's a skill that you have to learn when you're calling games. 

Richard Jefferson interviews LeBron James and J.R. Smith
Richard Jefferson interviews a couple of former teammates.  Getty Images

CBS: When did you first start thinking about what you'd do when you stopped playing? When did you start really taking this seriously?

R.J.: In Golden State, I think my 12th year in the league, I started thinking about it. Once you get to double digits, you kind of start looking around. I was the oldest guy on that team and that was Year 12. And I had a really bad back that year, didn't play much, but I found joy in mentoring the young core: Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] and Draymond [Green] and Harrison [Barnes] and Kent Bazemore. I found joy in it. Even though I wasn't playing, I was happy for all of their success. And so I just started doing stuff. My very first interview -- and it was terrible -- was with Harrison Barnes. He was a rookie, so I forced him to sit down and do it. 

CBS: Was that for the team website or what?

R.J.: It was for the team. I just did an interview. I wanted to kind of start working on it. They recorded it. The media team there gave me some notes about stuff that I can do. But I got really good advice from tons of people about making sure that I get as many reps as possible. That's always been the message, and the first time I heard it, I just equated it to basketball, where it's like the more reps you shoot, the better and more accurate you become. And so, I immediately took on that kind of mindset, where it's like anytime I could get reps, I need to do that. 

So I would go to local affiliates on whatever team I was playing and fill out a bracket during the NCAA Tournament. And they always want you to come in. They're like, "Yeah, a guy wants to come in? Yeah, come on in!" And so I used that to my advantage, and that's something that I tell all players to start doing. And then it kept evolving: When I got to Cleveland, me and Fred McLeod, after every home win, we would sit and do a two-minute segment called, "Was it something I said?" So me and him would break down the game. And it started in the playoffs the year we won, and then the next year we did it after every home win during the regular season. It just kept evolving and I kept just trying to figure out ways to get reps. That's where the podcast Road Trippin' came from. 

CBS: I imagine it must still be a bit weird when the game's about to start and the anthem's playing and you're not wearing a uniform. Are you at peace with this? Do you miss it?

R.J.: I'm 100 percent at peace with not playing basketball. I really am. Maybe I'll have a moment a year from now or this summer or sometime where I'm really kind of just a little freaked out or something, but I've worked so, so much and so, so hard. It's kind of eerie, but I played 17 years. And last year was a difficult year because of my situation, being in a role that wasn't really -- it was a veteran role, which I was OK with, but missing the playoffs and feeling like I could have contributed but they decided to go a different route, that part was hard. And I won't miss that. I think that challenge, for me, I had been there, done that. My challenge either to be a mentor or to play or to play well, that's done. So this is a new challenge.

CBS: Did you hear from Enes Kanter after the Knicks game?

R.J.: Oh no, I haven't. But that's the thing: I know Enes. Enes was tackling me when I was trying to do the pregame hit. You know, look, Enes knows we both have very unique senses of humor. I know Enes has a very unique sense of humor and I think Knicks fans have seen that -- his jokes towards LeBron and stuff like that. And, again, I always will be very respectful. That's one thing that I want to stay on is a level of honesty. I would never say something on air I wouldn't say to their face. I've been on the bench with Enes and I was like, "Enes, are you going to pass the ball?" Just cracking jokes with him.

Richard Jefferson and Allonzo Trier
At MSG, calling his second game ever, Jefferson talks to a fellow Arizona Wildcat. Getty Images

CBS: Do you think your relationships with some of these guys allows you to go places other broadcasters can't?

R.J.: Yeah, but also I understand that the one thing about toeing that line is eventually you will cross it. Now, you don't want to jump all the way across the line, but if you go a little too far, you have to, one, be able to deal with the repercussions, and, two, you have to be able to say either "I'm sorry" or "that was inappropriate." But it doesn't mean that you need to change who you are. And one thing I'll say is I try to be honest. 

When I was joking with Enes Kanter, he literally had four passes and three turnovers. So, what I was saying, I wasn't being mean, I was cracking jokes. But at the end of the day, it was more about, if you can read through the sarcasm and the jokes, you're like, wait, that's a great thing for you to do is to trap Enes Kanter. Right? Trap him! He's not a great passer. He's a great scorer, but great scorers typically don't like to be double-teamed. It's just a matter of how people want to process the statements I say, but I will never be rude, I will never be disrespectful or condescending. But I will try to crack jokes. 

CBS: Is your "Beef Jerky Joe" nickname for Joe Harris catching on?

R.J.: I don't know, but if you don't look at him and think he should be in a beef jerky commercial, for Jack Links Beef Jerky with Sasquatch -- I think so. 

CBS: What do fans or even media members not understand about the relationship between players and media?

R.J.: I think they need to understand that basketball players in general and everyone on the planet are the same. We're all human. Just because you see somebody have a game doesn't mean that a person is not having a bad day. Or someone's not sick. Athletes, too, we have a bad habit of getting very defensive about media members talking about us. What you have to do is understand that people have a job. 

There's a difference of baiting people into questions and there's differences between asking people the same questions eight different ways. These are things you need to try and avoid, you know? And players understand, like, no different than how media has to get questions every single day, players have to answer questions every single day. And, just, to be more respectful and more honest and to speculate less and stop trying to get clickbait -- these are things that I think everyone can take lessons about. 

CBS: Before the season, you weren't sure if you were going to play another year and YES was not the only network in play and you might have had coaching opportunities in Memphis and Los Angeles. What was it like when you had all these things up in the air?

R.J.: It was difficult because I'm literally trying to do two things at once. I'm trying to prep for basketball and training every day. Then I'm on phone calls and doing things, trying to figure out if I'm going to do broadcasting. So there was a lot going on and it was a lot of a process, but for the most part it was humbling to know that people wanted your services. But I just tried to do what I could do put myself in a good position.

I have to give credit to a lot of other people. Frank DiGraci, he works for the YES Network, he's the producer, he has called me every summer for three straight summers, saying, "Hey, are you going to retire, are you going to come to us?" And I was like, "Frank, if I don't play basketball, you will be my first call."

CBS: You've talked about admiring guys like Michael Strahan and Charles Barkley because they have broad appeal. I know you're doing basketball analysis at the moment, but can you tell me more about your ambitions in terms of crossing over? 

R.J.: I enjoy all forms of media. And my ambitions are more to try and be as broad as possible. I'm focused on basketball right now, and I'm trying to get really good at basketball and sports in general, but yeah, no, I have broader interests than just sports. The job is just to get really good behind the camera in a space that you're comfortable with, and then to venture out again.