The Smoking Cuban

Dallas Mavericks: Learning to love Jason Terry

By Ben Zajdel
DALLAS, TX - MAY 03: Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinal at American Airlines Center on May 3, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MAY 03: Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinal at American Airlines Center on May 3, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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I have to be honest: I never thought the Mavericks could win a championship with Jason Terry starting at shooting guard. Or even coming off the bench as a major contributor. Of course now it’s easy to say I was wrong.

I always liked Jason Terry. I loved his personality and respected his game. My problem was never with him personally, and I never doubted his skill. I did, however, doubt his size.

Year after year, I saw him vanish in postseason games. Opponents were content to let Dirk Nowitzki get his points, and instead focused on shutting down Terry. And it worked. Because of his smaller size, he couldn’t create his own shot with that sort of attention. I thought if the Mavericks were ever going to win a championship, they’d have to move on from Terry and find a second option who was more consistent.

I was wrong.

Terry averaged 17 points per game during the 2011 playoffs and scored 21 in the championship clinching Game Six. He hit big shot after big shot that spring. I’m sure you remember that. But he also had the attitude the Mavericks needed, the chip on his shoulder they sometimes lacked.

When Dwyane Wade hit a 3-pointer in Game Two of the Finals and stood posing in front of the Mavericks’ bench, it was Terry who looked at Dirk and said, “We’re not going out like this.” It was Terry who hit a dagger over LeBron James in Game Five, admitting after the game he couldn’t even see the basket when he let the shot go.

Dirk was the most important player on the Mavericks’ 2011 championship team, but Jason Terry was its fire and its soul.

After the 2011 Finals run, I finally understood what Jason Terry was. He wasn’t the consistent, perfect player I imagined or wanted. He was an imperfect microwave who could quickly score on any team and put the Mavericks on his back when Dirk had done all he could.

I realized there was a place for players like Terry, for undersized guards who were streaky shooters. Those guys could change the game, too. They could bring something to the table that the perfect shooting guard couldn’t.

Terry was electric and unpredictable, a joy and pain to watch. This is the guy who got a tattoo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy on his arm before the season started. And then he won it. How many people have done that? Probably just one. Jason Eugene Terry.

Next. Breaking down the Mavericks back-to-backs this year

Terry helped me realize that basketball players don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be themselves, play their game, and have the confidence to hit shots that win championships.

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