DALLAS — There are nights when it’s not good to catch Jason Terry, and Wednesday night was one of those nights. The Celtics guard had a miserable night against the New Orleans Hornets: 0-for-5 shooting, zero points in 20 minutes, a couple of missed opportunities to seal a win.
The Celtics lost, of course, 87-86, perhaps their worst defeat of the season. If they complain about their playoff seed, they can look back at getting swept by the Hornets as one of the primary reasons for it.
Terry took the loss personally, and he is moody after tough defeats, especially when he feels he could have done more. The Celtics acquired a team leader when they signed Terry to a three-year deal last July, but they also took on a player known for his highs and lows, his rainbow 3-pointers, his “jet plane” soaring motions down the court, and his endless chatter.
There are moments, however, when Terry, at age 35, grows angry — perhaps because he can’t drop those threes the way he used to or can’t stop the dribble penetration of younger, quicker guards. It’s a harsh reality for an aging player, and Terry relayed that Wednesday night.
“I’m about to get more aggressive,” he promised. “I already know what time it is. Any time you have a game like I had tonight, it’s time to turn up the aggression level.
“I can’t wait until the third or fourth quarter and think I’m just going to get it going. So that’s my responsibility. The team is counting on me. And I told them, ‘This one’s on me,’ so I’ll definitely make up for it Friday.”
He was in no frame of mind to expound on his return to Dallas, where he spent eight triumphant seasons, reaching two NBA Finals and winning a championship in 2010-11. It seems a foregone conclusion, given the words of Dallas owner Mark Cuban, that Terry’s number will hang in the rafters of American Airlines Center.
But his anger and disappointment after Wednesday’s game would only allow him to say, “It’s cool, had to come sooner or later. We’re going to go back there and I’m going to be super-aggressive. We’ll see what happens.”
In happier times, Terry would be thrilled about his return to Dallas. He wants to show the Mavericks faithful that they should have made a bigger push to bring him back.
Dallas is in a situation similar to the Celtics’. Dirk Nowitzki is hardly trying to be part of a rebuilding plan, so Cuban has to put capable pieces around him. The Mavericks cleared cap space to sign Deron Williams, hoping the Dallas native would want to return home. Instead, he parlayed their offer into an equal counter-offer from the Brooklyn Nets and stayed with them.
Coincidentally, Williams’s first game in Dallas since spurning the Mavericks was Wednesday — a resounding Nets victory.
Terry wanted to return to Dallas, but the Mavericks’ interest was tepid, and now they may be suffering the fate Celtics fans want to avoid — being good enough to compete with the elite teams but rarely good enough to beat them.
So Cuban throws out a team of graybeards such as Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman, Mike James, and Vince Carter, hoping to eke out the eighth playoff spot. That is a road Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge wants to avoid, and right now, the Celtics are not only squarely in the playoffs, they have an opportunity to soar to the fifth seed without Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger.
The Celtics aren’t in the same category as the Mavericks because their veterans have played better and their youngsters have also performed admirably.
So Terry is in a better place. And his upbeat personality, Seattle smile, and clutch 3-pointers are missed in Dallas.
“It should be a great standing ovation for him,” said Marion. “He played a big part in us winning the championship, and we’ve got a bond together for life. They know that here in the valley, and that’s all that matters.
“He didn’t leave here with no problems. It just happened that he wasn’t able to extend his deal here and he went to Boston and started a new career. But at the same time, he’s got a piece of that championship banner in there, so that’s all I need to say.”
“We still be keeping in touch. I’m going to give him some [expletive], too, about getting dunked on [by LeBron James] the other night. That’s my man, though. I’ve been knowing Jet for a long time.”
When you come back to the place where you established your name and reputation, the good memories are much fresher than the difficult ones, and once Terry steps onto the court Friday, that bright smile will return. And the Celtics need that talkative cat to return.
The situation is different in Boston, but better. Terry has embraced a different shade of green, and while the Jet doesn’t have the lift of his prime, he is still productive enough to help the Celtics in this critical stretch.