(Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed previews the pending free agency of sixth man Jason Terry and asks if "JET" has left the Big D runway one final time?
Will JET leave the Big D runway?
DALLAS — Has the jet left the runway a final time for Jason Terry in Big D?
Like veteran point guard Jason Kidd, the former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner is set to hit the open market on July 1 in a summer of uncertainty for the Dallas Mavericks’ organization. And after playing alongside leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki through the lowest of lows — first-round playoff exits and the 2006 NBA Finals loss — and highest of highs — last season’s championship run — the 7-footer’s lead henchman may have played his last game in a Mavericks uniform.
“He’s my man,” Nowitzki said of Terry on Sunday after the two suffered a first-round series sweep to the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I mean, we obviously went through a whole lot — a lot of ups, a lot of downs, the playoff losses every year. We fought a lot on the court, made up afterward. He’s a great guy and we all know what he means on the court; one of the best clutch shooters I think this league has ever seen. But also off the court, always joking, great for the chemistry, great in the community, so he’s my man. Hopefully it’s gonna work out. It’s gonna work out for him the way he wants to, and maybe he’s gonna be back here. I think it’s definitely gonna be weird seeing him in another jersey, so hopefully we’ll figure it out and he’ll be here. And if not, we’ll see what happens.”
Terry averaged 15.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 31.7 minutes an outing while starting just one of his 63 appearances during the shortened season. One season before Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle — a free-agent-to-be as well — arrived in Dallas, Terry accepted a bench role under then head coach Avery Johnson. But it wasn’t until Carlisle’s tutorship that Terry truly thrived in the role, winning the award for the best reserve player in the ’08-09 campaign while averaging close to a career-high with 19.6 points per game off the bench.
And it’s Terry’s lead-by-example approach and ability to perform in the clutch that will always stick with both Kidd and Carlisle should any of the three no longer patrol the Dallas sideline together.
“JET [Terry] is always gonna be one of my all-time favorite people and players that I’ve worked with,” Carlisle explained, “because of what he stands for, both as a person and as a player. When you come into a situation and you’ve got a guy like that, that’s really an All-Star caliber player and says, ‘Coach, whatever you need. You need me to start, I’ll start. You want me to come off the bench, I’ll come off the bench. I just want to win,’ and that just sets a tone for whatever your tenure is going to be as a coach. You’ve got a guy like that that’s willing to come off the bench virtually every game for four years and then do it in a championship season last year and then again this year, when he’s playing for a contract and he’d obviously have better stats if he was a starter. So, he’s a special guy. I know him especially well because our daughters are in the same class at school. So, my feelings for him will never change, and my hope is for him that he’ll be back. That’s my sincere hope.”
“JET made the game so easy,” Kidd said of his teammate for five seasons. “In my career I’ve played with a lot of Arizona guys and he’s by far the best. And I would go to battle with him any day because he’s a competitor.”
After leading the Mavs as a starting point guard to the championship series in ’06 and helping the team seize a 2-0 lead, Terry and his teammates squandered an opportunity at the franchise’s first title. That only fueled the sharpshooter even more last June as Terry and Nowitzki got their revenge on the Miami Heat by winning the series in six games on the Heat’s home floor.
But now those may be the most lasting memories of the former Arizona standout and Seattle native that Mavericks fans will have to cherish, with the league’s fourth all-time leader in made 3-pointers and one of the game’s best fourth-quarter scorers set to enter free agency.
“Oh, I’ll always be a world champion for the rest of my life,” Terry proclaimed after the Mavs’ reign came to an end at the hands of the Thunder. “It doesn’t matter, we’re still champions here, everybody in this organization. You know, you work tremendously hard for that. Sad to see it end the way that it did, but again, we’ve got a lot of basketball left in us, I know I do personally, and would love to do it right here.
“We’ll see what happens,” he added. “Again, I’d love to be here and it’s just tough right now after losing. That’s not what I really want to think about right now. I just take my hat off to every individual in this locker room that fought along the way this season. Tough season, I mean, you’re looking at an accelerated season and a totally new ballclub we had to get used to. But again, just tough to end the way it did this year.”
Terry's free agency and future as a Maverick are now on the runway.