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Jason Terry is Still an Ironman

 

Paul Pierce has had his night of rest, as has Kevin Garnett. Jason Terry is the third old man on the Celtics, but don’t count on him getting one anytime soon. He took a day off at practice Friday, but when it comes to resting for games, that’s not something Terry does.

“I’m going to let the young guys have practice and I’ll get my rest in practice,” said Terry. “But I’m a gamer, so I won’t miss any games.”

For a team that has been plagued in recent years by injuries to mid-level exception signings (hello, Jermaine O’Neal) Terry’s track record is a fresh of breath air for this squad. He’s missed a tiny 28 games over the course of his 14-year-career and that small number actually masks some of his durability.

“We’ll put an asterisk on about seven of those, those were suspensions,” Terry said. “But I just take huge pride in being an ironman, being there for my team. When you’re thrust in a role that I am in, not many people can do it, and your team counts on you and depends on you every night.”

Terry has displayed that kind of hard hat mentality all year, despite some hardy struggles in the first half of the season. Pierce gets plenty of the credit on playing through injury (as he should), but Danny Ainge also revealed last month that Terry had been playing through a knee injury that had affected his play in the first half of the season.

There were growing pains as well, ones that were spotted by  Hayes Davenport at CelticsHub after just the first game of the season.

But there was still one unsettling hitch in the offense, one that could emerge as an issue throughout this new season. It showed up when Jason Terry played alongside Rajon Rondo.

 Jason Terry’s overall 3-point percentage last season was 37.8: definitely a good shade below Ray Allen’s stupid 45.3, but serviceable. But in spot-up situations like those above, Terry’s percentage sags to 31.9. That makes him, as Allens go, more of a Tony.Those numbers bring out two conclusions: 1) Jason Terry’s still a buttery scorer off the dribble, and 2) he’s probably not going to be as useful as Ray was in a Rondo-led offense.

But you’re not going to see much of those Terry possessions when Rondo’s out there, and Terry only got four minutes of floor time without Rondo last night. That’s not an anomaly: Rondo plays heavy minutes in important games and will continue to do so. So Terry’s stuck with a less-than-ideal role as a spot-up guy for the majority of his time on offense, and he can’t really afford a huge decline his shooting efficiency because he’s not a good defender.

I’m not sure what the solution is to maximize Terry’s value as he plays with Rondo. They may develop a few set plays where Terry and his teammates move off the ball to get him a mismatch, then Rondo finds him and lets him go to work: he still kills bigger, slower defenders from the perimeter. But Rondo’s game isn’t exactly finding his teammates in places for them to dribble around for ten seconds. And whenever Terry’s creating a shot among the starters, he represents something of a redundancy, because Paul Pierce is still Terry’s superior as a creator. If somebody’s going to be called on to produce offense out of nowhere, I’d prefer it be Pierce to Terry

The switch to a motion offense, combined with the absence of Rondo has helped Terry flourish yet again. Doc Rivers acknowledges the learning process with Terry was long and painful at times.

“I think [Jason's struggle] was as much our fault as his fault, just trying to figure out who he is and how to get him in the right places. I don’t put that on him. I think it’s literally 50-50, just trying to figure out his best ways. It takes some time with a guy like that. When he first went to Dallas, it probably took him a year or two to get him perfect and in the right situation. And we’re still working on it. We’re not there yet. But he’s a lot better,” Rivers said.

With the issue seemingly solved in the interim, Terry remains a major x-factor for the rest of the year on just how much of a threat this team can be in the Eastern Conference. Given his track record, that’s not a bad thing.

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