BOSTON — With all the movement that takes place through trades, waivers and free agency in the modern NBA, players inevitably end up being teammates with guys they probably would not invite over for dinner. So it was for Jason Terry during the 25 games Kris Humphries spent with the Dallas Mavericks three years ago.
In the wake of the second-quarter brouhaha that erupted during the Celtics’ 95-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, Terry offered the clearest analysis of the player who felled Kevin Garnett with a hard foul late in the first half, setting off a tussle that would result in Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace and Humphries himself being ejected.
“That was unnecessary,” Terry said. “Some guys are tough. Some guys pretend to be. He’s one of those that pretends to be. I played with him. Maybe that’s the role Avery [Johnson] wants him to have, but he should leave that to somebody else.”
To leave no doubt as to his meaning, Terry explained exactly what type of player Humphries was when they played together.
“Soft,” Terry said.
Terry was not the only person throwing around the “S” word after the game, however. Celtics coach Doc Rivers used the same term in describing his team, even telling his players that to their faces during halftime. When Rondo stood up for his fallen teammate and tackled Humphries into the expensive seats behind the basket, Terry took that as a sign of togetherness and toughness. Rivers saw it as no such thing. He acknowledged that he was upset at Rondo’s ejection, but did not try to claim the referees’ decision was unwarranted.
“If I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft, the way we’re playing,” Rivers said. “We’re a soft team right now. We have no toughness, and that stuff’s not toughness. All that stuff, that’s not toughness.”
Toughness is hard to measure, but one good gauge on Wednesday came on the glass, where the Nets hauled in 17 offensive rebounds. Maybe the Celtics misconstrued Rivers’ take on offensive rebounding last week. Rivers has never put much stock into counting offensive boards — for his team. Giving up 17 extra possessions made it easy for Brooklyn to rack up 23 second-chance points, which happened to be just two points more than Brooklyn’s largest lead.
As for Humphries and Terry, they were briefly teammates after the Raptors sent the then-24-year-old Minnesota Gopher to Dallas as part of a four-team trade in 2009. Humphries was a bit player on a team that bowed out in the first round to the San Antonio Spurs, playing a shade under 13 minutes per game and averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Humphries must have left the Mavericks as unimpressed as he did Terry, because they traded him that January. The veteran guard even took one last shot at Humphries on Wednesday when he was informed of Rivers’ comments about his own team’s softness.
“Well, Humphries might as well come play with us, then,” Terry replied.