Jason Terry's arrival in Sacramento may be short-lived depending on how you interpret comments from Kings leadership. According to at least some interpretations, this deal may have had more to do with discarding Marcus Thornton than adding anything in particular.
That might be reading a little too much in head coach Mike Malone's thoughts, but there's no question they were as noncommittal as it gets on the question of whether Terry would remain with the organization (via Cowbell Kingdom's James Ham): “I’m not going there right now. He’s gonna come in and he’s and we’ll have a chance to sit and get to know each other and be with the team and practice. But my main thing moving forward is Ben McLemore.”
General manager Pete D'Alessandro was slightly more optimistic, saying, "we brought him in to be part of this team."
At the very least, the post-trade fallout suggests that the real impetus for moving Thornton was creating more minutes for McLemore, the seventh overall pick in last summer's draft. Thus far McLemore's averaged just over 23 minutes per contest, so it's no surprise the perpetually rebuilding Kings are looking to get him additional playing time.
That playing time clearly trades off with a significant role for Terry, a 36-year-old guard who's mastered the sixth-man role over the course of his 14-year career. Terry was averaging only 16.3 minutes per contest with the Brooklyn Nets, and it's hard to imagine that role expanding on a club attempting to develop its younger talent.
None of this necessarily implies Terry's departure. A buyout is certainly possible, but the market for Terry's services reasons to be pretty slim at this point. If he couldn't carve out a consistent role with the Nets, he's unlikely to do much better with more established contenders.
That said, teams on the lookout for backcourt depth could do worse than Terry. He has ample postseason experience and is well-known for cold-blooded shooting in the clutch. If someone like the Oklahoma City Thunder is in the market for a little insurance, Terry might make sense. It never hurts to have another guy with big-game experience.
For now, though, the ball is in Sacramento's court—and Jason Terry's.
Whether Terry sticks around has more to do with his attitude than what he'll contribute on the floor. In a perfect world, he'd become a mentor for McLemore and third-year guard Jimmer Fredette, adding an experienced voice to a locker room that could use it. In a less perfect world, Terry could be turned off by the notion of spending the waning moments of his career on a team that's still a ways away from making any noise.
The Brooklyn Game's Devin Kharpertian breaks down the possibilities (via Cowbell Kingdom's Jonathan Santiago):
Terry’s an amicable guy. I have no doubt that he’ll fit in in Sacramento and provide a good veteran voice for his young teammates. I know he was excited about the potential of winning a championship in Brooklyn, but that dream faded fast and Terry didn’t lose his charm. That said, if he’s really at the end of the line, he might just be annoyed at having to move again for a few fading months on a rebuilding team.
The Kings certainly sound open to the possibility of Terry making an impact off the court. If Terry's of the same mind, he probably isn't going anywhere. If he sours on the babysitting routine, all of that changes.
Sacramento's hope really rests on Terry viewing this as something of a calling. The knock on this franchise has long been that it needs a radical change in culture. The talent base has improved thanks to Rudy Gay's acquisition and DeMarcus Cousins' continued growth, but locker-room dynamics are slower to reverse.
There's a chance Terry could play a meaningful—if limited—role on the floor as well. Behind McLemore and starting point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Kings are particularly thin in the backcourt with only Fredette around to handle combo-guard duties. Most of those minutes will go to Fredette, giving him more opportunity to grow than the currently allotted 11.3 minutes he's been playing.
All the same, Sacramento needs a fourth guard.
Even though he's struggled to develop a rhythm this season, Terry is still making nearly 38 percent of his three-point attempts. Despite diminished quickness, he still knows how to get open and make buckets.
And while his numbers have been down of late, it's worth remembering Terry still averaged in double-figures with the Boston Celtics last season. Given the minutes to contribute and find a rhythm, Terry's 43-percent shooting percentage was much closer to his career average than the 36 percent he posted during his brief stint with the Nets.
Whether he finds an opportunity to rediscover that rhythm in Sacramento or elsewhere, Terry can still play. More importantly, he can still teach others how to play. That may be the best reason for him staying right where he is.
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