Jason Terry wants to stay part of core
Mavericks shooting guard hopes to sign an extension before Christmas Day opener
Only Terry isn't much interested in next season.
"I think people put too much emphasis into next year," the veteran shooting guard said. "I mean, who's to say? Nothing's guaranteed. We want to focus in on this season with the team that we have to put together to defend this title this year. Who knows who's free next year, and who cares? I really don't."
Terry won't like it, but he's moving closer to being added to next summer's list of potential free agents that includes Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, Andrew Bynum, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Monday, as one of at least five Mavs to work out at the American Airlines Center four days before the start of training camp, Terry said he wants to sign an extension before their Christmas Day opener against the Miami Heat.
"My focus is to sign an extension because being the core of what we've built to this point, I believe they want me here," Terry said. "And if the extension is not done, then that tells me something different. And so, I'm going to put all my efforts out here to prove to everybody in this league that I'm going to be here for another four to five years playing at a high level."
Terry, a 12-year veteran who has spent the last seven seasons with Dallas, said the front office's first order of business is rounding out the team that will defend last season's championship, a task that requires some difficult decisions.
Free agents can sign contracts starting Friday, and it appears the Mavs could be prepared to lose Chandler, small forward Caron Butler and perhaps backup point guard J.J. Barea and hard-nosed shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson.
"Yeah, it's a reality right now," Terry said of the possibility of moving on without Chandler. "It's just something that we're going to have to do deal with. Once training camp starts and once we have the roster of guys we're going with, we're not even going to worry about who's not here. We're going to go out there with what we have and make it happen."
Terry said he wants the Mavs' front office to make it happen with an extension for a player who has performed on the floor and in the community.
"That is our goal," Terry said. "We'll see if that happens."
If an extension is not offered, Terry could be entering his final season with the Mavs. Prior to the July 1 lockout, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said he wants Terry to retire in Dallas. But with the allure of cap space next summer and the coming new era of harsh luxury tax penalties, the Mavs might not be interested in entertaining an extension.
Few players have experienced the resounding highs and gut-wrenching lows with one franchise as has Terry. He arrived in a trade as a bouncy, young sharpshooter from the wayward Atlanta Hawks to replace Steve Nash, a pillar of the franchise and Dirk Nowitzki's best friend.
"That was tough," Terry said. "You're coming into a new situation, a guy loses his best friend, one of the centerpieces for the franchise, and you're trying to fit right in and, obviously, Dirk was probably uneasy at times. But I'm an easy-going guy, so our relationship, we hit it off from day one. It's because of our work ethic."
Terry has played for three coaches: Don Nelson, who stepped aside with 18 games remaining in Terry's first season; Avery Johnson, who Terry once feared had called him into his Toronto hotel room to tell him he was being traded, only to instill his faith in Terry as the team's new point guard; and Rick Carlisle, who has counted on Terry to do whatever is asked and lead by example.
"After '05-06 I was like, man, I basically hit rock bottom emotionally," Terry said. "But what I did, I let that motivate me and I never stopped working. That's why we were able to achieve what we did last year."
Terry was indeed magnificent throughout the playoffs and particularly so as a boastful, fearless weapon that relentlessly attacked LeBron James and the Heat after initially being contained.
Now Terry waits as patiently as possible for a new training camp to begin and his future to take shape. The Mavs' player representative during the lockout was the first to report back to work this past Thursday morning, the moment the league allowed players back into their teams' facilities.
"For me, it's an important year, so I'm here," Terry said. "The core [of the team] is intact, so we'll roll with what we've got, that's how you've got to look at it. With our core group of guys that have been here for the longest, we're still right there in the top of the league."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.