WALTHAM, Mass. — There are some side effects to hitting so
many clutch shots over the course of a 13-year NBA career. After a player
delivers a few back-breaking 3-pointers, anything that happens outside of a
pressure situation does not easily keep his interest.
That could be why Jason Terry, a former NBA champion and
Sixth Man of the Year, is not very fond of practice. The Celtics guard became
known as a solid primetime performer with the Dallas Mavericks, but he admits
that he was not always motivated when the bright lights were not shining. If
there was no shot at glory, what fun was that?
When Terry signed with the Celtics this summer, however,
coach Doc Rivers challenged Terry to make a change. So far this preseason,
Terry has responded.
"What Doc told me before I came here was, 'Do something
different. Change your habit,'" Terry said Friday at the Celtics practice
facility. "My habit when I came to this team was, I hated practice. I've
grown to love it over the last month. It's challenging. It's competitive and it
brings out the best in you every day."
Terry's new attitude toward practice begins with Rivers, who
turns basic practice pastimes like box-out drills into a competition that keeps
the players enthused. It helps that Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, among
others, approach practice with the same intensity they bring to games.
Although Terry's signing was widely hailed as a smart move
by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, there was some
concern about how the sharpshooter would fit into Boston's defense. The Celtics
are known as a formidable defensive team, but Terry is not known as a
formidable defensive player. Almost a full month into Terry's tenure with the
Celtics, Rivers said he was not surprised about Terry's abilities and
deficiencies on defense. The coach stressed that he had seen nothing the
Celtics could not work around.
"I pretty much knew what he was, who he is, and he's
pretty much beared that out," Rivers said. "Some of that is good.
Some of that isn't. That's why you play as a team. It's a team defense. That's
one of the things we talk about a lot as a group. We know each other's
weaknesses as much as anybody knows them, and if a guy is on the court and he
has a weakness, offensively or defensively, we have to cover for him."
The Celtics do not expect Terry to be a total defensive
liability. They allow for the fact that having to guard Rondo every day makes
it difficult to evaluate Terry's actual defensive ability, since they have not
found a guard yet who can guard Rondo one-on-one. Terry admitted that not everything
in practice was a ball of fun.
"I'm tired of guarding Rondo, I'll tell you that right
now," Terry said. "He's wearing me out. I don't know if it's the
scheme or what we're doing, but he's definitely worked on his game. He's made
it tough on me. When you're a veteran and you've been in this game 14 years,
you definitely don't want to be chasing around a 26-year-old all training camp.
But it's been fun. It's been a challenge."
Terry feels challenged, and that may have been the secret to
getting him pumped up about practice all along. Defending Rondo might not
provide the same boost of adrenaline that comes with hitting a game-winning
shot, but it has been enough to help Terry fight the boredom.