Friday, August 17, 2012
Terry looking forward to feeding off KG
CANTON, Mass. -- Jason Terry wasn't chasing a paycheck when he chose to join the Boston Celtics this past July.
Sure, the $5 million he's set to make this coming season is nothing to snuff at, but his new deal is an incentive-laden package more than anything else. It's a deal forged on opportunity -- the chance to play for head coach Doc Rivers, the chance to compete alongside Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the chance to bury a 3-pointer after receiving Rajon Rondo's latest "I need a replay" behind-the-back pass, and the chance to chase his second NBA championship, all in an environment that places real value on things like teamwork, self-sacrifice, work ethic, and a never-say-die attitude.
Terry is built for a place like Boston, where his charismatic personality and veteran experience should only enhance an already tight-knit locker room filled with accomplished resumes.
"More veteran leadership, experience," Terry said Thursday of what he'll bring to the Celtics' locker room. "Being that I've played in two finals, I've won a championship, and so, I think that alone speaks for itself. And you've got great leaders already. It's not a situation where I'm coming in and being the vocal guy and all that. I'm just going to play my role, and again, feed off guys like Kevin Garnett."
Though Terry, Garnett, and Pierce have known each other for years, their relationships as teammates will undoubtedly need to be strengthened. Their time as on-court rivals was intense at times, as multiple Celtics-Mavericks matchups came down to last-minute possessions and final-second shots. But for Terry, those battles helped to form the base layer of the bonds to come.
"Always huge respect," Terry said of his prior relationships with his new teammates. "Always tremendous respect for the way they play the game, and the way they carry themselves, and that's it. Because I knew every time we matched up against them we had to play, and you had to fight for every inch of the court. Those are the type of guys that you want to play with."
The same goes for Rivers, who reached out to Terry in the opening minutes of free agency.
"Huge, huge respect for what Doc Rivers has done in this league as a player and as a coach," Terry said. "Hall of Fame, no question. For him 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 compared his own personality to Garnett's, in that they're both overly enthusiastic at times, but having another Garnett-like presence in the locker room should only help things. In many ways, Garnett's identity is the one the locker room should continue to try to emulate. Fiercely loyal to his teammates and coaches, but sporting a pretty hefty funny bone with his larger-than-life personality, Garnett keeps things balanced. When it's OK to joke, he'll lead the charge. When it's time to work, he makes everyone fall in line.
Terry's demeanor is indeed the same, even if it's not quite on Garnett's level (but, really, whose is?). Listen to or read through his comments and you'll see repeated signs of that same balance. There's a fun-loving personality wrapped around an overwhelming allegiance to teammates and winning. He said he and Garnett have been keeping correspondence, and he'll soon touch base with Pierce and Rondo.
"I've texted KG a couple times. I'll contact Paul and Rondo this week," Terry said. "(I) go back-and-forth with Doc and (president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) on text messages, but I'm just excited. Just excited to be playing with a group of guys that understand (not just how) to play the game, but the way they play the game."
Mixed in with the battle-tested veterans is a surprisingly potent mix of youthful talent, with Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and Avery Bradley all set to play significant roles for Boston next season. There's pressure to perform for that group, but, in accordance with Garnett's style, Terry's already looking forward to mentoring anyone in need, particularly guys like Lee and Bradley who share his position.
"For me, I'm a veteran, I'm going to be able to not only show them, but then I'm going to teach them and I'm going to talk to them and those are guys that I will take under my wing," Terry said. "If I'm in the gym, they're in the gym, that type of deal. And that's just how I've been everywhere I've played."
The Celtics will need that younger core group to come through in a significant way, as the road to the championship is arguably more difficult than it was a year ago. Miami's still Miami, the Oklahoma City Thunder are still lethal, and the Los Angeles Lakers are reloaded. Combine all of that with an improved Atlantic Division and the 2012-2013 campaign could be one prolonged bar fight, as Garnett might call it. Don't expect the confidence-laden Terry to shy away from such competition, though. Expect a head-first dive, instead.
"Every season is a challenge. Obviously, 82 games, we've got to stay healthy," Terry said. "That may be the number one thing. Older, veteran team. But we've still got a young nucleus. We've got to keep our minutes manageable, but we're trying to win, and we're not going to cruise into this thing. We know who we're shooting at. The champs, that's (Boston's) rival. I walk right into the fire, and I love it."