Hustle and hungry. That’s the Mavericks’ team theme, started in training camp and carried through all the way to the doorstep of the NBA Finals. The Mavs are a team of wannabes and never-quite-was’s, and this season they decided to turn that into an asset instead of a liability.
Just look through the roster: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler – all guys who have sniffed titles but never won. Even coach Rick Carlisle left Detroit before the glory years there.
Jason Terry is no different. He was part of the team that blew a 2-0 Finals lead, and a part of the team that won a franchise-record 67 games and lost to the 8th-seeded Warriors and former coach Don Nelson.
"Those stories bond us together," Terry says. "When you have 13 individuals locked together, the stars line up. When you look at the championship teams the last three years, the core group was all veterans. We looked at ourselves in training camp and said, ‘That’s us.'"
But Terry had enough fuel for the "hustle and hungry” mantra long before he joined the Mavs. He was raised along with nine siblings by a Seattle bus driver, was told by his sixth grade teacher that his dream of making the NBA was “foolish," and he was cut by his 8th grade AAU team.
And that brings us to Jason’s daughter, Jasionna. She hardly has a hard-luck story; her dad's devotion and talent has erased any chance of that. She’s far more blessed than spurned. But this summer, she finds herself in an oddly similar situation to that of her father. Jasionna Terry is a shooting guard on the nation's second-ranked girls sixth-grade AAU team, and she's trying to overcome a bitter defeat last year to a team in Arkansas.
That team's nickname is the Mavericks.
And Jasionna’s coach is: Jason Terry.
So we have the irony of a father trying to avenge prior losses by the Mavericks, and his daughter's team trying to avenge a prior loss to the Mavericks – by one point, in fact. (Want more? Jason’s favorite team growing up was the Sonics, who are now the Thunder.)
But there’s an even bigger mission wrapped up in all of this. Jason runs his daughter’s team because he wants to help clean up the AAU game. He wants Jasionna to spend as much time around the right people as possible, and that means protecting her from some of the seedy elements that have seeped into amateur basketball since he played. (No need to worry about shadowy shoe deals; Jason's outfitted both his teams in his own line of Reeboks.) So Terry is avenging more than unfortunate losses – he’s out to right a systemic wrong.
"Once it gets to high school, it starts to get tainted -- kids are trying to get scholarships and you've got agents and stuff involved," Terry told the AP last year. "By the time they get to ninth grade, we've already alerted them of what to expect. I tell them from Day 1, `You are representing me.’”
Terry has assistants who take over his daughter’s team – the "Lady Jets” – when he has a game. So Mavs fans don’t have to worry about Jason not showing up for a game. But talking to him leaves you unclear about whether he wants the NBA title or the AAU title more. He attends almost three-quarters of the Lady Jets games and the same percentage of his younger daughter’s team, the fourth-grade Little Lady Jets. He even brings in former Mavs legend Mark Aguirre to teach defense. Last year, Terry got so excited about a Lady Jets win that he bolted onto the court for a victory lap before the game was even over. “He was out there running and screaming,” says assistant Bryan Brown. “Then the horn went off and he was like, ‘Whoa, my bad.’”
Brown says Terry wants an NBA title “three percent more” than a Lady Jets title. But when asked directly, Terry won’t answer the question. It’s hard to blame him. He says he wants both, and it’s hard to blame him for that. Both titles would prove something bigger than the best team is this particular season. Both titles would prove a point.
“We’re going to win one in June, and then win the other in July,” Terry says.
Hustle and hungry. Jason Terry, and his girls, have plenty of both.