Nobody has higher expectations for themselves than Jason Terry.
“This year, (my goal is) to get back to the title of being one of the best sixth men to ever play the game,” Terry boasted. “If I do that, my presence will be felt, and hopefully it will equate into a championship.”
A good goal, and an attainable one. Terry was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2009, but was not that guy in his lone season in Boston last year. But in Brooklyn? Terry feels much more comfortable.
“In Boston, I wasn’t healthy. I was fighting that all season, and at the same time, I was learning new teammates, new surroundings, being on the East Coast, moving my family,” said Terry. “That whole thing was an adjustment. It wore on me a little bit.”
But now, despite being in a new city, he is joined by familiar surroundings. He played with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston. He knows Deron Williams “from being in Dallas.” He knows Joe Johnson “from being in Atlanta.” He played with Jason Kidd and for assistant coach Joe Prunty with the Mavericks. He “spent some time in Dallas” with assistant coach Lawrence Frank.
“Being more familiar with the guys and the support group, knowing that I’m a veteran guy and understanding my role,” said Terry. “Getting back to Brooklyn is more like Dallas.”
It’s also helpful that his role is clearly defined heading into the season, which wasn’t the case in Boston.
“Last year, for me at this time, I was in a totally different situation,” said Terry. “I didn’t know what my role was. I was more like, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ But now, (Kidd’s) made the point, ‘You’re our energy off the bench, you’re our sparkplug. We need you to do what you did in Dallas.’ That’s the biggest difference."
He and Kidd are on the same page. Kidd’s seen firsthand what Terry is capable of if he pulls off a bounce-back season, and he is expecting his talent to return.
“Jason’s a guy who’s again talked about taking pride in coming off the bench,” said Kidd. “Just looking at the starters, they need the bench to be strong. Not every other day, but every day. For his leadership, his understanding, his attitude. He has a championship, so he knows what it means to be successful.”
Terry has developed a reputation around the league for his confidence; his willingness to take the big shot, the bravado, the attitude he possesses before the season even starts.
He’s done this with his bold predictions vocally and in ink. Terry famously tattooed a Larry O’Brien Trophy on his tricep the year the Mavericks won the title, when nobody else predicted the same result. He did this again after his trade to Boston, which obviously did not have the same success.
We already know that JET is doing the same thing for his new city, but what design and where on his body is still the question.
“Coming soon, coming soon, coming soon,” Terry said laughing. “We’ll see how big it is first, then we’ll know where to put it. I have so much confidence in this team and I do think we are going to win it. That’s just me.”
It’s exactly this attitude that makes Terry a valuable teammate, and an eventual fan favorite. His leadership and confidence in his team is his trademark, and it’s already begun on the second day of camp.
“He is a teacher out there on the court,” said Kidd. “At this point in his career, he’s helping the younger guys and that’s big on this team.”
“A prime example is the guards,” said Terry. “Yesterday in camp, we had a problem getting over the pick-and-roll. Being a veteran guy, I was showing the little nuances, little tricks to help them in that process. That’s where I use my expertise. Guys are open, and that helps also.”
After having arthroscopic surgery to remove an irritant from his knee in June, he’s been limited in training camp practices and being held out of contact drills. This hasn’t stopped him from being the leader the Nets expect out of him, and that’s totally fine for his teammates.
“Some guys hate to see a guy standing on the side, running his mouth when he’s not in the hit, so to speak,” said Terry. “It’s a fine balance and guys respect me.”
“I don’t let frustration set in,” he continued. “I’m competitive, obviously I get the itch. I want to jump out there in contact drills when I can’t. But, I know it’s more important for me to be healthy than anything. I’m just working my way up, trying to still be vocal, still help the young guys out, and still let my presence be felt.”