POSTED: May 24, 2015 2:12 PM ET
The end could be near for point guard Jason Terry, who will decide this summer whether he returns for a 17th season.
The end was near for the Houston Rockets. But the message wasn't going to change for Jason Terry. Though they were trailing the Warriors 3-0 in the Western finals, he was going to be reminding his teammates that Game 4 on Monday represents an opportunity that cannot be taken for granted.
"I've been training for this the last two or three years in Boston and in Brooklyn, under guys like KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce), veteran guys, Doc (Rivers),'' said Terry. "This is the position where J-Kidd was when he was with me in Dallas. It's ironic, but I learned a lot.''
The failure of the Rockets to win a game against Golden State -- they are now 0-7 against the Warriors in the regular season and playoffs -- does not diminish the gains they've made this season. They were expected to be demoralized by their failure to land Chris Bosh or another leading free agent last summer while losing their third-best player, Chandler Parsons, to the Mavericks.
Instead of backsliding, they improved around MVP runner-up James Harden, who enabled the Rockets to overcome the additional absences of Dwight Howard this season. Terry, who arrived a couple of weeks before training camp in a trade from Sacramento for two second-round picks, averaged 7.0 points during the regular season while shooting 39.0 percent from the 3-point line.
At age 37, emboldened by memories of his 2010-11 championship with the Mavericks, Terry emerged as the Rockets most vocal contributor.
"That was a big thing coming into this team that we heard from the outside -- that the communication barrier was difficult,'' said Terry. "And it was tough. The first thing that I did when I got here was to say to Dwight and James -- because those are our two leaders - if you don't communicate, then the rest of the guys, they're not going to be communicating.
"You have to be able to tell a guy, `Hey, man, you're not getting the job done.' Or, `You are doing a great job out here.' And that has been our key to success this year. It's been bar none the best communication of the teams that I have been on, besides that championship team. And that is saying a lot.''
Dwight Howard collects the loose ball and gets it ahead to Jason Terry who knocks down the triple in transition.
The Rockets were at their best, surprisingly, on the Warriors homecourt. Midway through the fourth quarter of Game 1, while coach Kevin McHale was plotting strategy with his assistants, Terry stood in front of his teammates and gave them a pep talk for nearly a minute -- even pointing to his flexed bicep, which is tattooed with a championship trophy from four years ago.
"Just be strong,'' he told them repeatedly, especially of their drives to the basket. "Be strong.''
"He tells us what he sees, tells us what we need to do and everybody listens to him,'' says Rockets small forward Corey Brewer, who won the championship in 2011 NBA Finals with Terry. "He's like a player coach for us.''
Terry realized he was making a positive impact during the Rockets' opening series against the Mavericks. "It was halftime before we were going in the locker room,'' said Terry. "McHale said, `Jet, go in there and talk to them.' And he didn't say what to tell them or anything like that. But I knew what they needed to hear. And we went in there and came out of the halftime and we put together a heck of a Game 3. There were some expletives in there, but my line was that we were not giving the championship effort.''
Terry will have to decide this summer whether he wishes to play for a 17th season as a 6-1 point guard, which matches him up against the quickest athletes in basketball, beginning with Steph Curry. And yet his overall impact transcends the numbers.
"`Winning the championship as a player gave me the ultimate respect among my peers,'' Terry said. "And it gave me the ultimate confidence that I can achieve anything. It comes from my faith in God, and then from my work ethic and my dedication to the sport. I am a constant student, always in the film room and a historian of the game.''
He spoke of the 1979 champion Sonics in his hometown of Seattle, and of the hard lessons learned by one of his favorite players, Isiah Thomas. Gary Payton waited until the end of his career to win the championship with Miami. Jerry West was the most patient contender of all before he triumphed as champion with the Lakers.
"That is what motivates me,'' said Terry. "So I can one day tell my story.''
One day, he had been hoping, he would be able to claim a second championship. ``There is one organization that I want to say to them, `Yeah, I got me another one,''' Terry said of the Mavericks.
He's probably going to be waiting another year to seek that last laugh.
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