Exclusive Q&A: Jason Terry on all things Celtics

Jason Terry has pretty much seen it all in basketball. After winning an NCAA title with Arizona, he began his NBA career on some bad Hawks teams in the early oughts. He found his way on the Mavericks, winning 50 games in all but one of his eight seasons in Dallas. He played on the veteran-laden 2012-13 Celtics before being shipped as the third wheel in the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade to the Nets. He spent two seasons on a rising Rockets team that reached the 2015 Western Conference finals, and he’s spent the last two years mentoring the young Bucks.

Terry is 40 years old now, still filling an NBA role. Along the way, he’s experienced championship heartbreak against Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and the 2006 Heat. He delivered the dagger over LeBron James in a Game 5 win that swung the 2011 Finals in the Mavs’ favor on his way to a title. He won Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2009 and finished in the top three five years running. He’s third all-time in career 3-pointers behind only Ray Allen and Reggie Miller.

Terry has told me before he plans to get into coaching as soon as his playing career is through, which is likely next summer. He’s essentially serving as one now under Bucks coach and former Mavs teammate Jason Kidd. He’s uniquely qualified to comment on all matters NBA, so we asked him about everything from the Nets trade that essentially built this current Celtics team to the Isaiah Thomas saga and the Gordon Hayward injury. And, oh yeah, that Celtics tattoo of his.

PARQUET POST: What was your impression of the Isaiah Thomas trade?

TERRY: “I was disappointed. Obviously, what Isaiah meant to the Celtics’ franchise in the period of time he was here was tremendous. He had a great impact on the court and in the community, and I just thought they would give him an opportunity to continue that. They decided to go in a different direction, which is every franchise’s choice, and they ended up with a pretty good option in Kyrie Irving. But I was definitely disappointed, because I know what Isaiah thought about the organization, how he felt about the city, and he was heartbroken.”

(Editor’s Note: Terry and Thomas belong to a tight-knit fraternity of NBA players who grew up in the Seattle area — a group that includes former Celtics player Avery Bradley, veteran Jamal Crawford and Spurs rookie Dejounte Murray, among others. Thomas recently wrote, “I fell in love with Boston,” but he “might not ever talk to Danny [Ainge] again” and won’t return Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck’s texts. So, when Thomas is disappointed, it’s only natural that Terry would feel the same way.)

PP: Did it take a while for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to get over being traded from the Celtics to the Nets?

TERRY: “It’s always tough when you pour out your heart and soul for an organization. I did it in Dallas for eight years, and then there comes a point where there’s a decision to be made, and it’s always tough — for both parties, I’ve gotta believe. Seeing KG and Pierce, what they did for this franchise, they’ll be hanging in the rafters, but your career goes on. It’s always something you look back upon. I’ll always be a Celtic. Hey, I got the tattoo. It’s not going anywhere. Every time I walk in this building, whatever uniform I have on, they welcome me with open arms, so how can you not love being part of something that’s as historic as the Boston Celtics?”

(Editor’s Note: From a business perspective, this is the Celtics’ current return on the assets they acquired from Brooklyn: Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, Semi Ojeleye, Kadeem Allen, the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick  and the Clippers’ 2019 first-round pick.)

PP: And at some point you just move on?

TERRY: “You move on, but you hold it tight to you in your memory bank, in the back of your mind, because once you’re a Celtic, you’re always a Celtic.”

PP: How do you separate the business aspect of it?

TERRY: “For some guys it’s harder than others. Obviously, from a franchise perspective, from a business perspective, it made sense. They were going to have to pay Isaiah a substantial amount of money. They’re getting Kyrie at somewhat of a discount, so it made sense for them.”

PP: You were here when Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, and obviously the Celtics are dealing with a similar issue now with Gordon Hayward. How much does that suck the energy out of a season?

TERRY: “It hurts you, because you’ve prepared all summer to have this guy be a part of your team, and he’s a focal point, and now you don’t have him, so you’ve got to retool and figure out, ‘OK, what guys can we supplant in his place to make up for what he would have brought?’ Now, you can never substitute what he brought to the table, but you have to do it collectively as a group. Coach [Brad Stevens] has done an outstanding job since he’s been here, and I don’t have any doubt in my mind that, with the talent that he has, he’ll find somebody to step up in Gordon’s place.”

(Editor’s Note: The 2012-13 Celtics were 20-23 when Rondo tore his ACL, and they finished 21-18 down the stretch without him. They only played 81 games that season due to the Boston Marathon bombing. While they played well in Rondo’s absence, they really missed him in the playoffs, where the All-Star point guard thrived pre-injury and the C’s eventually lost a first-round series to the Knicks. The Celtics came within a quarter of the Finals the year before, and Rondo’s injury signaled the end of an era.)

PP: From a mental standpoint, how does that impact the locker room?

TERRY: “Oh, it’s draining. It’s draining mentally, because, again, this is one of your leaders, this is one of the guys you were counting on. He’s definitely a piece, like in Rondo’s instance, that made everyone else better, and it’s hard to replace. They’ll search, and they’ll try to figure it out, but it’s definitely hard to do.”

PP: How much was Rondo’s injury a killer to that 2012-13 Celtics season?

TERRY: “It was a killer for us, because you forced guys to play positions that they weren’t accustomed to in a system where Rondo was ball-dominant. He made the decisions for everybody, so it was tough, but we made due. We still had Paul Pierce, KG, but we just didn’t have enough to get out of the first round of the playoffs.”

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