DALLAS – One day, Jason Terry’s No. 31 should hang from the American Airlines Center rafters, somewhere in the vicinity of the championship banner with his name on it.
On Friday night, a sellout crowd is expected to give the Boston Celtics’ No. 4 a standing ovation, as a man coach Rick Carlisle refers to as “Mavericks royalty” returns to the AAC for the first time since essentially being forced to leave in free agency this summer.
“I hope they give him a standing ovation,” said owner Mark Cuban, who made a difficult business decision not to match the three-year, $15.7 million deal the Celtics gave Terry, a longtime Dallas fan favorite and friend of Cuban’s. “He deserves it. He’ll be a Maverick for life. He’s part of the family.”
Life will be interrupted for the next three years. Maybe longer, if the 35-year-old Terry accomplishes his goal of playing until he’s 40.
But Cuban has made it clear that the man known as “Jet” will be welcomed back into the Mavs organization on a full-time basis once he’s done playing ball. Cuban has offered Terry a job in the Mavs’ front office, with the responsibilities to be figured out once the time’s right.
“Basketball is a short part of your life, and then there’s the rest of your life,’’ Cuban said. "Hopefully, we’ll be part of Jet’s after he retires.’’
It wasn’t a popular decision to let Steve Nash leave and trade for Terry to replace him, but Terry established himself as a local legend due to his personality and performance during his eight-year tenure with the Mavs.
Terry joined Dirk Nowitzki as the only players on the rosters of both Mavs teams that made Finals trips and played a huge role in knocking out the Miami Heat in 2011. Terry came up huge in the clutch in Games 4 and 5 after publicly doubting whether LeBron James could shut him down the whole series and then scoring 27 points in the Game 6 clincher. Nowitzki has called his former scoring sidekick, who might as well have been the championship parade marshal with the victory cigar dangling from his mouth, “one of the best clutch shooters in the game” on countless occasions.
“Jet” was also an unofficial mascot/cheerleader. A generation of Mavs fans grew up imitating the wings he made with his arms after hitting big shots, or really whenever the feeling hit him. Terry cared deeply about connecting with the fans, from waving his arms to hype up the crowd to making hundreds of appearances in the community.
“He’s one of the most beloved players I think in the history of this franchise because of his personality, his relationship with the fans and the community and he was a great player,” Carlisle said. “He was a prime-time great player in the clutch. Guys like that always distinguish themselves. It’ll be emotional, I’m sure, for him and the fans and some of us that got to know him well. But we know how good he is and we’re game planning for him, too.”
Added Nowitzki: “He meant so much to our franchise. Not only on the court, where, to me, he’s one of the best clutch shooters I ever played with, but also off the court. He was a great community man. Every other day, he was doing something, appearances left and right. He’s just a guy with a huge heart. I wish him all the best this season and hopefully he gets the ovation that he deserves.”