In the second part of an extensive interview with Jason Terry, the Milwaukee Bucks’ 39-year-old guard offers up his opinions on a wide-range of topics, including the presidential candidates, the Bucks’ two young budding stars – Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo — his passion to bring a team back to Seattle and his “shocking’’ picks for the NBA Finals.
What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding the protest of the national anthem?
JT: Mine is we live in a great country. This country is great. This country has provided things for me and my family that, hey, if I was in another country, I don’t know if it would have provided me with those opportunities.
But we also have a long way to go as a country. We got lot of work to be done. For me, I’m an advocate for change but I’m also an advocate for action. If you want change, you can’t talk about it. You have to be a part of it.
What certain guys are doing to show their protest, I support them. I support them 100 percent. I get it. But at same time, I have had members of my family serve in the military and I honor them, too. Again, we live in a great country and I would never do anything to disrespect this country.
Your thoughts on another heated topic: the presidential election.
JT: You know what: I was able to shake Bill Clinton’s hand one time, I met Mrs. Clinton, and I think they’re a great family. But I still have to watch a little more to see who I’ll vote for at the end of the day.
Trump … I stayed in his hotels. They’re nice. (He breaks out laughing). But other than that, I don’t really know too much about him. But, like I said, he’s got some nice hotels in Chicago and in New York’
I know JET is an acronym for Jason Eugene Terry. But who started calling you Jet and how did your signature “flying’’ down the court come about?
JT: As soon as I stepped foot in Dallas, the fans started calling me Jet. Before that, I was always J.T. I was J.T. in Arizona. I was J.T. in Atlanta. But I was brought to Dallas to replace Steven Nash and I knew I could never do that. We are two, totally different players. His game was very different than mine. I wanted to create something that was different, something so I could stand out.
The fans started calling me Jet and I started to buy into it. I’m playing OK, not as good as I played in Atlanta, but one game, I’m having a heck of a game: I mean I come off the bench and score 19 against Utah. My 19thpoint was a 3 and I just said, ‘Man, it would be cool if I just flied off.’ So I started flying down the court. I thought it was cool. All the fans, all the kids in the front row, then started doing it.
Well, the next day at practice, we’re sitting down stretching and Don Nelson is the coach. Don Nelson comes down in his cowboy boots, walks right up to me and looks at me, turns around and starts flapping his arms up and down. Then he says, ‘In my 20 years of coaching, I have never … what the hell is that s—? F—, we don’t that around here. Excuse my language. What is that supposed to be? A bird? A plane? Just don’t ever do that again.
And I didn’t do it, because I have so much respect for him. And he was my father’s favorite player. Nellie played for the Celtics and my father’s favorite team was the Celtics.
I love Nellie to death, but a couple of months later, he retires and Avery Johnson took over and he let me go back to spreading my wings. So I had to put the jet in the hangar for about two months after that ribbing by coach.
Being a Seattle guy does it pain you to see the city without an NBA team?
JT: Yes, it does. If you polled all the NBA players who played from since I came into the league in 1999 through when they left Seattle, K.D.’s last year in Seattle, they would tell you that Seattle is one of their favorite cities to play in. One, the city is on the water and the people are great. You go downtown and you have the (Pike Place) Market, just a great place, just a great environment. It was a great place to grow up.
And, two, the City of Seattle is die-hard basketball. If you went to an open gym session in Seattle in the summertime, you’d see why. It would be packed. There’s no ticket sales, but it would be packed. Now Jamal Crawford does a summer league there and this is the closest they’ll come to seeing NBA players but he gets a sold-out crowd every single game.
Seattle fans are just die-hard fans. They should have never lost the team. And, hopefully, one day and, if I have my say about it, I’ll be a part of a group that brings a team back there.
In your NBA inner circles, do you think there’s a chance Seattle will get an NBA team soon?
JT: I believe so. I definitely do. I wish I had six more years to play and it would be on my watch. But I would love to be part of their organization.
If you were the commissioner of the NBA, what would be your first executive decision?
JT: First executive decision would be putting a team back in Seattle. That would be my No. 1 job. Again, growing up a Sonics fan all those years and walking into third grade and my p.e. teacher was none other than Slick Watts, the great Sonic legend. … How can you not be a Seattle fan, man? And then growing up with his son Donald Watts.
Downtown Freddie Brown had three kids that I grew up with and being friends with them and him (Brown), being one of my mentors … And Lenny Wilkens being my first coach in Atlanta. How about that? That was a dream come true. I’m a Sonic man through and through. Getting a team for Seattle would definitely be my first task as commissioner.
How would you handicap the Eastern and Western conference title contenders?
JT: I see it breaking down a little more evenly than people think. The Eastern Conference, with Dwight (Howard) going to Atlanta, with Al Horford going to Boston, Cleveland being the champion, Milwaukee being as strong as we are, Dwyane Wade going to Chicago, Indiana making the moves they made, I mean … The Eastern Conference is tough. And, again, the champion, Cleveland, is from the East.
The West had some movement. The Clippers are tough. San Antonio is tough with Pau (Gasol) going there. Oklahoma loses (Kevin) Durant but gain Victor (Oladipo), Golden State gets a little stronger but lost a couple of pieces, Dallas made some good moves.
The scale, if I had to say, is about even right now. The talent level has been distributed evenly, though people might not like what Durant did by going to Golden State. I mean if you look at the league as a whole, this is a great time to be a part of the NBA because the talent is distributed evenly. It’s going to be a hell of a season.
And your Finals choices?
JT: Of course, I’m going to pick the Milwaukee Bucks to upset everybody. They’re the darkhorse, the stepchild that no one is talking about. Two young stars (Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo), one guy who is the oldest guy in the league, a hall of fame coach. We’re going to shock the world. That’s a bold prediction, but it’s one I believe in. It’s going to take some work to get there, but …
You actually sound serious.
JT: I’m very serious. The Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers in the championship. And then we’ll see what happens.
You know a drug test will be administered after this interview.
JT: They (the NBA) just had them. (Laughing). And I passed by the way.
So how much fuel is left in the Jet?
JT: There is plenty of fuel left. You know this is the best I’ve felt in training camp in four years. I can honestly say so. One, I’m healthy. Two, mentally, to come here and be surrounded by a coaching staff that has as much IQ, knowledge and understanding of the game, where to position their players to make them successful, is refreshing to me. My relationship to Jason Kidd is very valuable. I understand fully what is expected of me, so I can go out and perform at a high level on the court and in the locker room. And being around these young guys gives you life. This is fun.
What is your role with the Bucks? What is expected of you, especially with the shooting guard position up in the air right now?
JT: Make shots. Make plays. Provide energy and leadership on and off the court. Simple.
What do you expect from a minutes standpoint.
JT: The sky is the limit. I told J. there’s no restrictions. Again, I’m as healthy as I’ve been in four years. I feel great. I got to thank God. It’s unbelievable to be 39 years old and be able to do this. I’m excited to get up and go to practice every day. I haven’t had that excitement in years.
I’m telling you, there’s something about this group of guys. You got a lot of young guys who are happy and who just want to hoop. They don’t care about the fancy cars and the money. That’s not on their agenda. Their agenda is to come in here and work their butt off every day, get better and see what happens.
So, what would you like to do before calling it a career?
JT: I would love to hoist that (Larry O’Brien championship trophy) up just one more time. It would be over. I’ll tell you, I’d have my retirement party right then and there as soon as I hoist it up.
But if that doesn’t happen for some unforeseen reason, then I’ll go immediately into coaching or broadcasting and lend my knowledge and IQ about a game that has given me so much.
I’ll be a part of this until they put dirt on me. It’s me. It’s who I am. It was who I was trained to be every single day of my life since I was in sixth grade. There’s nothing else. Guys always say to me, ‘If you weren’t a basketball player, what would you be?’ Well, I wouldn’t be here. This is what God put me here to do. My purpose is give to the game what it has given to me. And that’s what I’m going to do until I’m gone.
Photo by Bill Tennessen