Celtics guard Jason Terry is keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com. In his fourth installment, JET explains how they went from losing to winning, what he's nicknamed the bench, and which teammate made Rajon Rondo his protégé. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta.)
2012 didn't end the way we wanted it to. We had a rough West Coast road trip. Our mindset during those losses was that we knew we weren't where we wanted to be, but we're close. Knowing that we were close and we weren't getting the result that we were looking for, we stayed positive. We stayed even-keeled. Even though we didn't like the losing, we didn't get too down on ourselves. We knew that eventually, once we were healthy and got our lineups the way we wanted them, the way we envisioned them in the beginning with Avery Bradley coming back, we'd go on a run.
Avery has been tremendous. One, he brings defensive intensity that is very contagious. I mean, it just feeds through the team. We love the way he plays. He's young. He's athletic. He has a nose for the ball defensively.
Defense has been the difference in this five-game win streak. We found our identity. We struggled to find our identity early in the year. We knew what we wanted it to be, but to actually make it happen out on the court it took for Avery to come back for us to really say, "OK, we're a defensive team first and we're opportunistic with our defense where we can get easy baskets offensively." I think that's been the biggest difference in our wins and losses.
Another difference is our bench is intact. It's how we envisioned it from day one with myself, [Jared] Sullinger, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. We spent all training camp working on that particular group and the chemistry was there, but we never got to put it in motion. Now that it is, you can see how dangerous we are. I've nicknamed the bench "Gangster Squad" after the new movie that is out. I love it as a nickname.
My role on this team is to provide energy and lead the bench and knock down big shots. What I am still working on is being in the right spot offensively. We have a lot of sets that we like to run. I want to continue to work on that aspect and get better.
I'd think we'd all agree the Knicks game last week was one that stands out. The Knicks bring out our competitive spirit. Going into this season, everybody picked the Knicks to do big things and win the Atlantic Division. They're still a rival for us. It's a physical game when we play them. Personally, I have friends on that team in Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler [and Steve Novak, who played seven games at the start of the 2010-11 season before going to San Antonio] that I won a championship with when we were with Dallas. So I have a personal rivalry there. Any time we play them it's special.
I didn't make much of Melo [Carmelo Anthony] coming to our bus after the game. We're competitive. If you go to one of our practices, we talk more than anybody. I talk more than anybody. I'm a throwback. I come from the Gary Payton school of trash talking. It's something that is normal to me. It may get under the opposing team's skin, which it's intended to do. If it gets to you, we've done our job.
Kevin Garnett is definitely legendary for his trash talking but Paul Pierce is just as brutal. I'm on the right team. We're so versatile here and it's so spontaneous the way we trash talk. For example, Kobe [Bryant] said something to Pau Gasol about two months ago about his big boy pants. Now we use it when we're out on the floor. We use that in our trash talk lingo.
We played that game without [Rajon] Rondo, who was sitting out a one-game suspension. Our game plan varies when he isn't playing. When he's not in a game, we use multiple ball handlers. We use different guys to initiate the offense. But obviously, he's someone you can't really replace. Rajon Rondo will be an All-Star this year. He's one of the best point guards to play the game.
Rondo plays with a passion on the court. Kevin Garnett has made it his job to talk to Rondo about how to control the passion when he's playing. He's made Rondo his protégé. He's grooming him to be the leader of this franchise when he leaves. Me, I just talk to him about little things during the game to keep him focused, like game plan and personnel. I've been around a while and have played against every single guard that he's matching up against.
We have a nice homestand going on and will play the Knicks again and Miami at home towards the end of January. I like the fact that nobody seems to be talking about us. We're pretty much the underdog. I have a tattoo on my left arm that I've had a long time of Underdog. In fact, it's one of my first tattoos. I love being thought of like that. We're playing the villain role, and rightfully so, because that's how this team is made up.
What else can I tell you about what's been going on over the last month? Here's something that people have asked me. Do we give out game balls after wins like, say, they do in football? We really don't, but sometimes exceptions are made. Last month, Paul [Pierce] gave a game ball to Jason Collins. He needed to be acknowledged for his professionalism. He was coming every day, playing hard. When he came to Boston in free agency, he didn't know if he'd be here at all. He was like the 13th man on the roster. Then, you put him in the starting lineup, and we immediately got a win at a time when we were struggling. It's a pretty amazing story.
We're going to be having company at the Garden soon with the Bruins. I'm happy hockey is back. I'm a huge hockey fan. Growing up in Seattle, I hate to tell you this, I'm a Canucks fan. But that's OK, I know the Bruins took care of them to win the Cup in 2011. I've definitely grown to be a hockey fan, especially when the playoffs roll around. That is some intense action from end to end.
The Patriots are in the playoffs now. I've got the Seattle Seahawks, my favorite team, against the New England Patriots, my other favorite team, in the Super Bowl. I was planning on going Sunday, but we have practice. I know we have an early game on Super Bowl Sunday. But if it's Seattle and New England playing, I will try any way possible to get there for it.
Last time the Patriots played the Texans, I was at the game. Doc [Rivers] gave a little talk to the team before that game. I wasn't there for the speech, but was at the game. It definitely was a blowout [42-14 Patriots win]. I don't think they're going to need any speech this time around. They are very focused. You have to support the other sports franchises in the city you play in. You see Brandon Lloyd sitting courtside; also, Vince Wilfork and Patrick Chung come a lot. We support each other here.
How can I not mention the possibility of Seattle getting a basketball team again? As a kid growing up in Seattle I was a huge Sonics fan. I'm a die-hard even to this day. Even if they do get a team back, I will still in my heart, somewhere deep down, be rooting for the Sonics.