Jason Terry may want to trade in his nickname — “The Jet’’ — for a new one.
After all, Terry is closing in on his 39th birthday – Sept. 15, to be exact – and he doesn’t fly down the basketball court like he once did.
But don’t fall into the trap thinking that Terry, who recently signed with the Milwaukee Bucks as an unrestricted free agent, doesn’t have it anymore or that he can’t make a contribution — perhaps even a major one.
In an offseason where the Bucks whiffed on shoring up their shooting guard position – they couldn’t seal the deal with Atlanta free agent Kent Bazemore and they were played by former Marquette University star Dwyane Wade and his handlers during free agency — Terry could prove to be an invaluable addition as a legitimate 3-point shooter and a well-respected locker room presence.
Let’s start with Terry’s perimeter shooting. On the NBA’s all-time 3-pointer ladder, he stands on the third rung from the top with 2,169. The only ones who have made more 3s in the history of the game are Hall of Fame in-waiting Ray Allen (2,973) and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller (2,560).
For his 17-year pro career, Terry is a lofty 38 percent shooter from 3-point range. More importantly, he hasn’t shown any slippage. In the last five seasons, he’s never shot below 36 percent.
In today’s NBA, where there’s a premium on 3-ball shooters, Terry will certainly help a Bucks’ team that was woefully deficient in that category last season.
As Terry recently tweeted, “There’s plenty of fuel left in the jet.’’
Indeed, don’t expect Terry to simply be a Bucks’ cheerleader this season. Some NBA officials contend he signed with Milwaukee and rejected overtures from a handful of teams, including the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, because of potential playing time.
“He wants his minutes,’’ said an NBA executive, whose team had shown some interest in signing Terry. “He didn’t go there (Milwaukee) to sit on the bench.’’
And he won’t. Sure, the Bucks added Matthew Dellavedova, the former Cleveland combo guard, in free agency, but they also lost veterans Jerryd Bayless in free agency to Philadelphia and O.J. Mayo, who was suspended by the NBA for substance abuse. They played major minutes last season, averaging 29 and 27, respectively.
Furthermore, Rashad Vaughn has struggled mightily since he was the team’s No. 1 selection in the 2015 draft and isn’t close to being a consistently reliable player off the bench.
But Terry isn’t the least bit concerned about playing time, according to his agent Ryan N. Davis.
“Whether he gets 40 minutes, four minutes or no minutes, he’ll accept it and be professional about it,’’ Davis said. “He’s excited to be with Milwaukee and help them.’’
Playing time aside, Terry’s biggest contribution to the Bucks may not come on the court. The Bucks have a youth-saturated roster and sorely need a respected locker room leader like Terry.
He is the consummate pro. He exudes class. He conducts himself in the right way. And he possesses an engaging personality, one that has made him popular with his teammates, coaches and, yes, even the media.
The Bucks haven’t had such a strong, influential and positive figure in the locker room since Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia were on the team two seasons ago. While Dudley and Pachulia were only decent players for the Bucks, they were exemplary leaders and commanded the respect of their peers.
Terry, in many respects, mirrors Dudley’s persona. They are extroverts, never turning down a chance to chat. They have the unique ability to unify teams, with each owning a marvelous sense of humor to keep things light during a long and often stressful season.
Since Dudley’s departure, the Bucks’ locker room has usually resembled a morgue: lifeless. Most of the Bucks, while good and upstanding people, are reserved.
Rest assured, the Bucks’ locker room won’t be library-like quiet anymore. Terry will liven it up the minute he steps in it. He’s going to energize his new teammates, off the court and on it. And that’s a good thing for the Bucks.