Commentary

Jason Terry focusing on playoff run

Guard done worrying about future, gets ready for possible final run with Mavs

Updated: April 25, 2012, 5:41 PM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS  Jason Terry has talked up the "CTC" he writes on his shoes before every game.

That's now over, he said, because the only thing that matters is "DTT."

Since his request for an extension went unfulfilled in December, Terry has made it perfectly clear on a number of occasions that he's keenly aware that his eighth season with the Dallas Mavericks might be his last.

So he took to writing "CTC" on his shoes as a gentle reminder to owner Mark Cuban -- and the 29 other NBA owners -- to get ready to "Cut the Check" next season because the Jet, though he might be an older model, has no plans to fold up his wings.

[+] EnlargeJason Terry
Steve Mitchell/US Presswire"The task at hand right now is winning, winning a championship, defending this title," says Jason Terry, who is in the last year of his contract.

"I'll play for any team in this league, period," Terry said. "That's what it is, there's no question about that."

Terry dearly wants to finish his career in a Mavs uniform. After winning the title last season, he joyously selected a spot in the American Airlines Center rafters where the franchise can eventually hang his retired No. 31 next to Dirk Nowitzki's No. 41.

So talk of "CTC," Terry said, has yielded solely to "DTT" -- as in "Defending the Title."

"The task at hand right now is winning, winning a championship, defending this title," Terry said. "That's the only thing that matters. The other thing is going to take care of itself and we'll see what happens."

The Mavs head into the regular-season finale Thursday night at Atlanta, bringing Terry's 13-year career full circle as it approaches its first free-agent crossroads.

The Hawks drafted Terry 10th overall out of Arizona in 1999. On Aug. 4, 2004, on the heels of losing Steve Nash to the Phoenix Suns, the Mavs traded for the sharpshooter who had a knack for lighting up the Mavs twice a season.

Nearly eight years later, a wild and unpredictable journey that finally reached the mountaintop a year ago could be coming to a close. Terry and Nowitzki are forever bound in franchise lore as the lone survivors of the 2006 Finals collapse and heroes of the 2011 championship. Thursday night could be their final regular-season game as teammates.

For Terry, a long-time fan favorite whose wife is immersed in the community and whose four daughters have known no other home, it will be game No. 589 in a Mavs uniform. This weekend, Jet and Dirk, one of the game's least likely duos, will embark on an eighth consecutive playoff run, one that that could go down as legendary if the tandem can somehow navigate a revamped title team back to the Finals.

If such a remarkable, and frankly improbable, run went down, how could Cuban not bring Terry back -- with or without the apple of the franchise's eye, soon-to-be free agent Deron Williams?

[+] EnlargeJason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty ImagesJason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki celebrated a championship together last year, but their successful eight-year partnership could be nearing its end.

"Hopefully he'll play well and we'll have a deep run," Nowitzki said. "If I was in his shoes, that is what I would be focusing on; playing my best and helping this franchise ultimately win a couple playoff series. I think everything else is just wide open.

"Nobody really knows what's going to happen this summer. Everybody talked about Dwight Howard being available and he signed one more year so he's not even going to be there. So I don't think there's really a handful of free agents out there that are worth getting, so everything is wide open. I would just leave it all out there on the court and go from there."

Terry was spectacular last postseason, burying playoff ghosts past with a shooting clinic and an all-around game some didn't believe he could deliver. More will be needed this season on a team that is again claiming defense as its calling card but has slipped significantly on offense.

In recent weeks, Terry, averaging 15.1 points and shooting 38.0 percent from beyond the arc, has taken his game to the rack with greater determination and frequency, saying it's playoff time and someone's got to do it.

"Jet is a great player and the one thing I always remind him of is he's a great all-around player," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's not just a scorer. He's a playmaker, he has the ability to be a difference-maker defensively for us, and when he's out there scrambling and getting loose balls and putting himself into position to get steals, we're a different team out there. So we need his total game, and his focus should be a basketball player and not just a scorer."

Will it be difficult for Terry not to think about the end as he stands next to his teammates for the national anthem? It definitely might. But so be it, Terry said.

He's done with thinking about the changes that could come next season, he said.

"CTC" has given way to "DTT."

"Just because of what's at stake, you can't let anything deter you and distract you from the goal because it's that fragile," Terry said. "If you look at it, we've got one more game. The only thing guaranteed after that is four games.

"(Last season) Tyson (Chandler) was a free agent, J.J. (Barea) was a free agent, Caron (Butler), all those guys, but they didn't talk about it, it was never mentioned. They just talked about winning that championship, and that's what my goal is."