My lengthy conversation this week with Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry hit on many different topics, including his view of the NBA labor negotiation as the team's player representative as well as his desire to get his own negotiation started for a contract extension, plus his strong belief that the Mavs must re-sign DeShawn Stevenson.
Here's Terry, unplugged:
Q: Do you believe the NBA season will start on time?
A: I sure hope it’s a full season. Do I see it? I don’t know. I just don’t know right now. I’ll know more after this week (negotiations resume today). I’m not as optimistic as I was when the season ended. But, for all the Dallas Mavericks fans, regardless of when this thing starts, we will be the champions and we will be going for another title, and that’s the thing that keeps me excited and keeps me training as hard as I’ve ever trained.
Q: Did the draft-night trade for Rudy Fernandez surprise you considering the number of shooting guards already under contract?
A: It didn’t surprise me at all. If you know us, we’re going to load up as strongly as we can because our motto always has been that whenever you’re number is called you must be ready. If you’re a player that hasn’t been in big games or doesn’t realize that then you’re going to fail. Rudy Fernandez is a player that’s hit big shots, he’s played well in the playoffs and he understands what being a professional is. And I don’t think coming onto our team is going to hurt us at all. If anything it is going to bolster us, especially at the position that he’s at. We need shooters. If you saw us in the playoffs this year when that ball swung around guys didn’t hesitate, and he’s another one of those guys.
Q: What do you think Fernandez's presence means for Rodrigue Beaubois?
A: Roddy’s in a tough situation. When you got a guy like Dominique Jones, Rudy Fernandez, myself, Corey Brewer, guys in that position, the combo-type of position, hey, you’re going to have to fight. You’re going to have to fight for minutes in practice for that matter. And so nothing is going to be given to anyone, and so that competitive nature is what builds us to be champions. I have no doubt in my mind that Roddy will be healthy and be able to contribute at some point in time. But, the key factor is getting healthy, and he just hasn’t been that.
Q: Early on in Dallas, you had to overcome being Steve Nash's replacement, and ever since 2006 it's been all about redemption. Now that you've conquered both, what motivates you for this coming season?
A: The motivation is to taste the feeling. For some reason everywhere I go, every airport, you are recognized as a champion and it’s unbelievable how many fans really turn the page and start to root for us after we won. Again, going into this season, we know we’re not going to be the favorite. We have a lot of pieces we have to replace, so being placed in that underdog role again; I don’t think any team has won the championship and not been the odds-on favorite the next season. Maybe the Miami Heat that year they beat us, but it’s been a long time. I think this year again, our motivation is, hey, we are going to be the underdog again.
Q: Who will the "experts" anoint as the favorite?
A: They’re going to be picking LeBron James and them, regardless of what we say or how we picture it. All the focus again will be, 'How does Miami respond? Is this their year?' and all those underlying storylines. But, for us, it’s old hat. We still have the same nucleus and our key to success to winning is team, team first.
Q: Who do you see as the favorites in the Western Conference?
A: The Lakers have the same team unless they make any kind of trade. New coach, same team. They got to be one of the ones. And then don’t forget about San Antonio, who had the best record in the NBA. Those guys are going to be licking their chops. Don’t think [Gregg] Popovich is just going to lay down. I don’t even think they’re going to put us in the top three or even four because you’ve got Oklahoma City, who’s a young team. Memphis showed you they’re on the rise. There’s four teams in the West alone that I can really see analysts putting them before us. So that’s motivation in itself.