Jason Terry: 'I'm on a job interview'
"For me, personally, I'm playing for 29 teams," Terry said after the Mavs snapped a three-game losing streak with a win Tuesday night over the Washington Wizards. "I want to stay here. I want to be here, but every night I'm on the floor I'm on a job interview."
For me, personally, I'm playing for 29 teams. I want to stay here. I want to be here, but every night I'm on the floor I'm on a job interview.” -- Mavs guard Jason Terry
Terry requested a contract extension after the lockout was lifted, but that was never considered by a front office determined to create as much salary-cap space as possible this summer. Jason Kidd is among the other core members of the Mavs' title team in a contract year, and center Brendan Haywood and small forward Shawn Marion are candidates for the amnesty clause or to be traded.
Kidd, who is also in a contract year, understands exactly where Terry is coming from.
"I've just got a handful of teams," Kidd deadpanned, dropping a pretty strong hint that he'll only consider contenders as a 39-year-old free agent this summer.
"Just like last year, we had a lot of guys who were free agents and you see the success or reward that they got from other teams," Kidd said. "That goes for everybody. You can probably exclude Dirk from that audition, but everybody's out here auditioning for other teams because you never know who needs your skills or who's going to pay you the money that you're looking for.
"So I agree with Jet, but I'm in a different bracket. I'm in the lower end with the age group. Who needs an older guy?"
It's been an up-and-down year for Terry, the longest-tenured member of the Mavericks other than Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs' sixth man is scoring 14.8 points per game -- his lowest average since 2004-05, his first season in Dallas -- and has uncharacteristically struggled on the road.
Terry, who prides himself on being an outstanding clutch performer, has been benched twice during crunch-time this week. He expressed frustration after sitting the last several minutes of last week's loss to the Phoenix Suns, when guard Rodrigue Beaubois missed two potential tying shots on the last possession, and vented about the general state of the Mavs after a loss to the Sacramento Kings the next night.
"I don't know about the frustration level, but it's time for change," Terry said in Sacramento. "You can only look at something for so long and you're getting the same result. So at what point are you going to change or are you going to ride it out?
"I'm here. I'm here to do my job. As far as somebody else, I can't speak for them, I got to speak for myself. If it sounds selfish, it is what it is. We're not a team out there right now. It shows, so until we become a team and play together on both ends of the court we're not going to be very good."
Terry had a much more toned-down take after the Mavs' loss to the Golden State Warriors 24 hours later, saying that the team had bonded toward the end of their 2-7 stretch in 12 nights after the All-Star break.
However, the mental grind of trying to defend a title with no job security beyond this summer is clearly getting to Terry. He watched the Mavs let Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler leave in free agency after the franchise's first championship run and can't help but hear all the speculation about the Mavs' summer possibilities.
"Whew, that's tough. No, that's tough, it is tough," Terry said. "But it's the situation we've been faced with and we've got to find a way."
Terry said he tries not to pay attention to all the discussion about the Mavs' chances to land Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams in free agency this summer, but he admitted that's easier said than done. That situation could have much more clarity by the Thursday trade deadline, especially if the Orlando Magic deal Howard to the New Jersey Nets to join Williams.
"But at the same time, what can you do?" Terry said. "Until Dwight makes a decision, everybody's going to be thinking that. Every time you look on the ticker saying, 'Mavericks still got a chance to get him,' who wouldn't pass up that opportunity?
"I don't know, man; it's been a circus, though. I think even ESPN's getting tired of talking about it."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, however, insists that he isn't concerned about Terry's state of mind. Carlisle said the priority for all the Mavs is winning, pointing to Chandler's four-year, $55.4 million contract with the New York Knicks as proof that it's the best way for a pending free agent to improve his negotiating power.
"Our guys understand the best thing that can help in all of their futures is winning," Carlisle said. "That is a constant. The evaluations that teams make on guys that are looking at free agency and things like that is winning. They want winning players. [Tyson] Chandler is a great example of that."
Kidd agreed with that sentiment.
"You win. You go out there and play hard," Kidd said. "The guys that went out there and played hard for us last year and weren't playing for themselves got rewarded. That's the way we have to approach it."
In other Mavericks news, starting small forward Shawn Marion sat out of Wednesday's practice to rest a sore knee and is day-to-day. Carlisle hopes that Marion will be available for Thursday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats, but the Mavs won't push Marion to play if he doesn't feel 100 percent.
"We'd rather not sit our better players, but if there's any need at all for it, it's something that we've got to look at it," Carlisle said. "If there's any doubt, we need to sit the guy if there's any question about whether a guy should play or not play unless we're in a playoff series."
Tim MacMahon and Jeff Caplan cover the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.