Thursday, August 16, 2012
Terry relishes sixth-man role
By Greg Payne
CANTON, Mass. -- Jason Terry might just be ahead of the NBA curve.
Jason Terry is a rare breed: A scorer who actually prefers coming off the bench.
In a league where the vast majority of players set their sights on starting for their teams, eager for the chance to have their names belted out by PA announcers during the pregame introductions, Terry has done the exact opposite, shying away from that spotlight in favor of a more personal one off the bench, fueled by the fans.
"For me, in Dallas, it was like, they do the starters and everybody gets their name called. Well when you're the sixth man, and they check you into the game, you get your own ovation," said Terry, speaking at a high school basketball tournament held at Reebok headquarters on Thursday. "You get your own call-out. What better feeling is it than that? So, I relish in that.
"You know there's no warm-up. Every shot is pressure, everything. You don't get time to kind of feel out the game. You have to come in and be ready to play right now, and I love that challenge."
Terry, acquired by the Celtics for the full $5 million mid-level exception in July after spending the last eight seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for the 2008-2009 season, and has carved out a niche as one of the most well-known and productive bench players in the league. He emerged as one of the top free-agent candidates this summer, and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers -- knowing his club has always been lacking a force off the pine -- phoned Terry in the opening minutes of the free-agency period to begin the recruitment process.
"For (Rivers) to call me on the first hour of free agency, (I was) just overjoyed. But it meant a lot. It definitely meant a lot to me," Terry said.
Consistency hasn't been an issue for Terry -- he's averaged at least 15 points per game in each of his last seven seasons -- and he's even developed something of a sixth-man code to live by, working off of a system he refers to as the three 'E's:' Energy, effort, and enthusiasm. When you combine those with a healthy dose of scoring, the result is typically a spark off the bench capable of aiding a team's chances of winning a game.
"Sixth man, it's all about energy, effort, and enthusiasm, the three 'E's,' and then, obviously, putting the ball in the hole," Terry explained. "But, coming in and making an impact or an imprint on a game -- every game is different, but there's always a point in a sixth man's role where he has to come in and be like, 'Look, I've arrived. I'm here.' Game-changer. That's what the sixth man is."
Terry will spearhead what should be a renewed bench effort this season, joining Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox and possibly even Avery Bradley when he's fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Terry pointed to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo as the Celtics' superstars, and while the outcomes of a fair share of games, playoff series, and even championships have been determined by players of such a status, the importance of a bench brigade cannot be undermined.
"It's very crucial that your bench players realize that it's a long season and there's plenty of minutes for everybody, and you're going to be counted on at some point," said Terry. "You have a huge job to do, and that's how you have to look at it, because it's a team at the end of the day. You may have two or three superstars, but those role players are just as important as those two or three superstars."
Even when loaded with talent, the production of the second unit can be more difficult to predict than New England weather, but on an individual level, Terry's adamant that he can be counted on for the same production night-in and night-out.
"What I've done in my career is just consistency. You know, 15 and four or five assists," said Terry. "That's a given. It's going to be those nights when you go for 20 and 30, those are the special ones. But what I'm going to give you every night is 15 to 20 points, four to five assists, and I'm going to play my heart out on defense for you. I can't change my game. I'm 13 years in the league, and I think my game fits very well with what they have here in Boston."