Jason Terry is 40 years old. Yes, that's old for a professional basketball player. Yes, his contributions on the court are less impactful than they were in his younger days. Yes, he is still an extremely valuable asset to have on a team — especially a young team like the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Jet's biggest impact on the team last year turned out to be his actions off the court. Well, he was technically on the court, but he wasn't playing. You get the point. Terry's interactions with the young Bucks, most specifcally Thon Maker, were clearly valuable.
Terry's interactions with the young players on the Bucks weren't always readily noticeable — or even visible — to fans that watched Bucks games on TV. The camera obviously stays with the game action. This is where attending games in person gives you the opportunity to observe interactions between teammates on the bench; both during gameplay and during timeouts.
Sitting close enough to the bench to be within earshot and overhear player conversations during the game is a unique (not to mention exciting!) opportunity I wish every basketball fan could experience at least once. I had this opportunity a few times last year, and it gave me the chance to watch Jason Terry’s behavior on the sidelines. I have never personally seen a veteran player do what JET did all season, game after game.
Terry consistently acted as a coach, a mentor, and a motivator for his teammates. These observations were not limited to one or two games; I witnessed this behavior time and time again. I found that Terry was most active when a player would be substituted out of play. This, of course, can happen when Jason Kidd isn't happy with the play (or effort) of a particular player.
When a player would head to the bench, they were regularly greeted by Terry. He would either walk over and stand by them on the bench, or would pull them off to the area next to the bench, towards the baseline of the court. JET would then passionately go over the previous play (or plays) with that player. These talks, which were essentially impromptu coaching sessions, never came across as condescending or unwanted by the player on the receiving end. It usually wasn't a situation where the players acted sullen or annoyed by the suggestions or corrections made by Terry. More often than not, it would lead to an animated conversation where the two then broke down the opponent's offensive or defensive schemes.
Jason Terry is a vet with 18 years of experience and has been to the playoffs 12 times. While it's normal (and expected) for veteran players to act as team leaders, Terry goes above and beyond. Next to in-game experience, what is arguably most valuable to young, developing players? I would say having discussions on the bench about the game as it develops from someone with nearly two decades of experience helps a ton.
JET's sideline coaching sessions and pep talks were an immeasurably valuable tool last season. Maker looked like he was often intently listening to Terry on the bench. I saw that the first thing Maker is met with when retreating to the bench is encouragement and positive feedback. Something as simple as hearing "good job!" from a veteran can be the confidence boost a young player needs. This is exactly how Terry greeted Thon and the rest of the team immediately upon their return to the bench.
There were other instances in which I watched and listened to Terry discuss game details with John Henson, who had just checked out of the game. They stood at the baseline, pointing excitedly at the court and going over the previous play, where the Bucks failed a defensive switch and allowed an easy basket. It’s clear that Terry doesn’t limit his advice to first or second year players, nor should he.
Here’s one clip I took from a further distance during the playoffs last season. In this video, Thon checks out of the game, where Terry is already standing in wait to speak with him. As the game continues, JET stands over Thon and appears to be giving him feedback regarding his play. In this instance, due to how far away I was from the court, I obviously wasn’t able to hear the conversation.
The veteran leadership Jason Terry provided was invaluable last season, and I’m so glad we were able to bring him back for another year. While I focused mainly on him passing on his knowledge to the team, there are other important aspects he brings: energy, enthusiasm, and engaging the crowd. The Jet fuels the team with his encouragement, and fuels the crowd in the way he engages with fans. There are countless examples of Terry playing to the crowd: waving his arms to get the crowd on their feet, asking for louder cheers, and other playful interactions. But don’t take my word for it, here’s another example from the preseason:
Update from American Airlines Center: Jason Terry was walking around at halftime waving to fans while eating popcorn— FrankMadden (@fmaddenNBA) October 3, 2017
A few days later while playing against the Pacers at the Bradley Center, JET decided to take a seat in the audience during the game and chatted briefly with fans.
The Jet is really a man of the people tonight!! pic.twitter.com/S33OrWf1ku— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 5, 2017
Last season, he averaged 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. These numbers don’t convey the true impact he had on the Bucks. Yes, numbers are important — but so is everything else Jason Terry brings. And I, for one, am excited for another season of The Jet.