Even in a slowed-down trade deadline season, rumors are flowing fast and furious, and NBAniks in various formats are using their second nature to bash out ideas regarding their team's potential when it comes to upcoming cap space, or "assets" to use down the road. Of course, those "assets" are either humans or humans that are about to be drafted out of college, and that "cap space" comes when a team tells a human that their services aren't needed any more and that they would not like them to stay around once their contract is finished. It's a nice living, playing NBA basketball, but humans are humans. And humans get upset.
And sometimes good humans get upset and say bad things. Like Dallas' Jason Terry, who is going to be rightfully pilloried for his comments about his upcoming free-agent turn, even though we understand the hurt he's feeling as Dallas declines to offer him a contract extension while looking to utilize impending cap space for free agents this summer. And, while we're at, even though we understand why Dallas is going this route even if Terry is one of our favorite players. Here are Jason's unfortunate comments, as relayed by ESPN Dallas:
"For me, personally, I'm playing for 29 teams," Terry said after the Mavs snapped a three-game losing streak with a win Tuesday night over the Washington Wizards. "I want to stay here. I want to be here, but every night I'm on the floor I'm on a job interview."
Media will and likely should focus on the "playing for 29 teams" line, a reference to the 29 potential NBA teams Terry could sign with this summer instead of staying in Dallas. The implication is that Terry, a player the Mavericks rely on to fire up shots and play the role of the team's designated gunner, would … play his role too much?
We're not sure, but it's not going to look good. With that in place, Terry is more than welcome to express his thoughts. He has every right to kvetch about going out nearly every night to perform for a team that hasn't made a commitment to him beyond July as the Mavericks have the right to consider their own future with an aging supporting cast (which includes the 34-year-old Terry) around Dirk Nowitzki -- a cast that is mostly set to see their contracts expire this offseason.
And the Mavericks are also correct to expect Terry to live up to the terms of the contract he happily signed with the club back in 2006. And, Terry, despite what you might think or the impression that his words are giving, is playing almost exactly as in line with what he contributed to the team's championship run in 2011.
Per minute, his shot attempts are about the same. His assists are about the same. His shooting percentage has dipped slightly, as it's been with the entire league during this lockout year, but his Player Efficiency Rating is almost exactly the same. Solid work for smallish guard, sustaining that production from age 33 to 34.
Dallas wants a shot, at least, at signing Dwight Howard during this offseason. Or Deron Williams, if Howard is traded this week and surprisingly decides to stick with whatever team acquired him. At the very least, they'd like their first chance since 2004 (when the team acquired Terry, and amped up their championship chances after declining to sign Steve Nash) to be able to rebuild on the fly around Nowitzki. Nowitzki, at 34 years of age heading into the offseason, is no spring chicken; but he's Dirk Nowitzki.
And Dwight Howard is Dwight Howard. And Jason Terry understands that. From the same interview:
"But at the same time, what can you do?" Terry said. "Until Dwight makes a decision, everybody's going to be thinking that. Every time you look on the ticker saying, 'Mavericks still got a chance to get him,' who wouldn't pass up that opportunity?
"I don't know, man; it's been a circus, though. I think even ESPN's getting tired of talking about it."
We all are. And Terry's moaning also provides a chance to remember the flesh and blood and actual feelings behind these "assets" and "expiring contracts." As a member of both camps, he'd like to remind people not only that he can still contribute, but that sometimes feelings can be hurt by cold (if necessary, and intelligent) calculation.