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DALLAS -- Jason Terry, a featured member of the Dallas Mavericks' two NBA Finals teams, expects to hear a lot of cheers during his return to the American Airlines Center on Friday night.
"Mainly because I've got about 100 tickets," Terry joked, "so my cheering section will be in the building."
The reality, as Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said about a man he called "Mavericks royalty," is that Terry is among the most beloved players in franchise history. The 35-year-old guard's eight-season tenure in Dallas ended when he signed a three-year, $15.7 million contract with the Boston Celtics last summer. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to make a competitive bid to keep Terry, continuing the deconstruction of the 2011 NBA championship roster Cuban deemed necessary due to the new collective bargaining agreement.
Several high-profile members of the Mavs organization, including Cuban, Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki, have encouraged fans to welcome Terry back with a standing ovation when he checks into Friday night's game. Terry vowed not to be overcome by emotions at that moment.
"I took my sedatives," Terry joked. "I'm good, mild-mannered. But I'm definitely going to take a flight on the runway."
That's a reference to Terry, known by his initials JET, mimicking an airplane with his arms as the wings. That became part of his persona in Dallas, where he quickly emerged as a fan favorite despite arriving as the replacement for Steve Nash after the unpopular decision to let Nash leave in free agency.
Terry served as Nowitzki's scoring sidekick for eight seasons, and they were the only two players to make two Finals trips for the Mavs. Five years after the Mavs lost a 2-0 series lead to the Miami Heat, Terry played a major role in Dallas' revenge, hitting several clutch shots in the 2011 Finals and scoring a team-high 27 points in the Game 6 clincher in Miami.
He meant so much to our franchise. Not only on the court, where, to me, he's one of the best clutch shooters I ever played with, but also off the court. He was a great community man. Every other day, he was doing something, appearances left and right. He's just a guy with a huge heart. I wish him all the best this season, and hopefully he gets the ovation that he deserves.” -- Dirk Nowitzki on former
teammate Jason Terry
"He meant so much to our franchise," Nowitzki said. "Not only on the court, where, to me, he's one of the best clutch shooters I ever played with, but also off the court. He was a great community man. Every other day, he was doing something, appearances left and right. He's just a guy with a huge heart. I wish him all the best this season, and hopefully he gets the ovation that he deserves."
Terry said he has gotten past the disappointment of the title team not being kept together but added that it has been tough to watch his former team fight just to try to get to .500. He said his only emotions Friday night will be joyful.
"I shed tears when I had to leave," Terry said, "so I don't think I've got any more left."
While Terry acknowledged that he circled this game as soon as the schedule was released, he insisted that his motivation would be fueled by the Celtics' fight for playoff position. Boston (36-31) is tied with the Chicago Bulls in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
"I've got to do something," said Terry, who is averaging 10.2 points per game this season but was scoreless in Wednesday's loss to the New Orleans Hornets. "I was 0-for last game. Didn't score any points, had a lot of turnovers. Best believe that I'm going to be aggressive tonight."
Terry hopes his return to the "friendly confines" of the American Airlines Center helps him find his shooting touch.
"We are focused on getting a win," Terry said, "but it will be good to come back home."