Saturday, May 5, 2012
Jason Terry on repeat: 'It was a long shot'
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- If guard Jason Terry has played his final game with the Dallas Mavericks, he will leave feeling he and the remaining members of the championship team didn't get a fair shot to repeat.
Terry was the most vocal Mavs player throughout the season regarding owner Mark Cuban's decision not to re-sign key free agents from last season's championship team because of changes to the collective bargaining agreement. After being swept out of the first round by the rising Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, Terry, a free-agent-to-be for the first time in his career, said the personnel on this team wasn't good enough to contend.
"Every year I’ve been on the Mavericks team and we’ve had a realistic chance, it’s because of the personnel," Terry said. "Look at your personnel and what they surround you with, your core nucleus, and you can see if you have a realistic shot. For us, it was a long shot. Nobody’s going to downplay that at all. If you look at our roster to a man, it was a long shot this year. But we still made the playoffs, but we just didn’t have enough."
Terry said Cuban knows that this team didn't have a fighting chance to contend.
"Yeah, he knows it, the city knows, we all know it as players," Terry said. "But with the team we have, the nucleus we have, the core group of guys, we feel like we can beat anybody, that’s just us as competitors. But, again, you have to have the personnel. You have to have the personnel to get it done."
Cuban maintained from early in the season to as recently as right before the playoffs that this team was better than the one that bulldozed through the Trail Blazers, Lakers, Thunder and Heat to win the franchise's first title in 31 seasons. Cuban, citing changes to the CBA that focused his team-building strategy on cap space for the coming summer, did not bring back defensive-minded center and team leader Tyson Chandler, penetrating point guard J.J. Barea and gritty defender and 3-point shooter DeShawn Stevenson, among others.
Prior to Saturday's Game 4, Cuban said he had no regrets about not bringing back the title team and said he fielded the best possible team he could given the constraints of the new CBA.
The Mavs' key acquisitions included Vince Carter in the twilight of his career and Lamar Odom, whose emotional baggage got the best of him and forced Cuban to kick him off the team.
Asked if he believed last year's title team would have had a legitimate shot to repeat if left intact, Terry initially said he didn't know before quickly changing his tune.
"I do. Why not?" Terry said. "That’s the team I wanted, so I believe we’d be just as good as anybody. But you can hope and wish and think about that all you want, but the reality of it is the season’s over and we’ve got the future to look forward to. Thank God for my health and my family."
Terry received support from longtime teammate Dirk Nowitzki after the game. Nowitzki has mostly toed the company line when it came to talking about not bringing back the team.
“Knowing as players, we were for sure disappointed in December in free agency when we didn’t get the same team back,” Nowitzki said. “That’s for sure.”
Now Terry, after eight seasons in Dallas, and the Mavs head toward a crossroads this summer. Terry, 34, will likely be seeking a new home to end his career as the Mavs face an overhaul of the roster and their most uncertain future in Cuban's dozen years as owner.
"You know we like to make changes year-in and year-out, but not a complete overhaul," Terry said. "That’s what this is going to be, an entire different ballclub I would expect. But, the formula is there, the formula’s there. We set the bar very high last year with what we did and what we accomplished. They know the formula and it’s on them to put it back together."