With the return of Avery Bradley –The Gamechanger, The Saviour and all of a billion other divine titles– there has been a shuffle in the playing rotations. When Danny Ainge put this team together in the off-season, the idea was to have the tenacious backcourt of Rondo and Bradley start. A bench featuring Jason Terry and Courtney Lee would then cover the starters, with the Brazillian Blur, Leandro Barbosa thrown in for good measure.
This has since created a logjam amongst the guards, with a huge chunk of minutes going to Rondo (35.8), Bradley (24.3) and Lee (17.6) over the past fortnight, leaving a potentially scarce 18 minutes for Barbosa and Terry.
The question remains: with very limited action, what will become of Jason Terry’s role on this team?
Lee’s return to form
The early season struggles of Courtney Lee were well-documented as he bounced around from starter to bench player and back, but he has found a definitive role in the rotation since Bradley’s return. When Avery heads for the bench, Lee enters the game to sustain the same ball pressure.
“We definitely frustrate our opponent, and that’s what we try to do. I start the game off trying to frustrate whoever I’m going up against and Courtney comes in the game and he does the same thing.”
Now that Lee has settled into a role that he can thrive in, he has proven over the last fortnight exactly how valuable he is to the team. His confidence on D has found its way into his shooting, resulting in a much higher shooting percentage. Over the month of January, Lee has shot 54% from the field in 17 minutes of action, averaging 7.6 points a contest.
The Blur, ready to go
Due to the quality of guards in Boston’s squad, Leandro Barbosa has found himself on extremely limited minutes this season through no fault of his own. Since early season, Barbosa has proven his ability to handle the ball, get to the basket in a flash, and finish well on the fast break. He has also surprised Doc Rivers with his ability to defend other guards.
After the win over Oklahoma City in November, Doc praised Barbosa’s defensive gears to ESPN:
“He has that reputation of being an offensive player. What we have found since getting him, he’s a heck of a defensive player. He has the ability to put pressure on the ball. That’s something we didn’t know.”
To have a guard of this quality sitting at the end of the bench adds pressure to Terry, especially with Doc looking to Barbosa down the stretch in the team’s win over the Bobcats last week. The interesting decision to start the Brazilian Blur against the Bulls in Bradley’s absence is also something that should be taken note of.
What is left for JET?
So where does this leave 35 year-old Jason Eugene Terry, who is renowned for knocking down big shots off the bench? The former Sixth Man of the Year seems like a perfect fit for Boston to provide an offensive boost when he enters the game, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. It is a glaring weakness, and could well be a reason for the drop in recent minutes – Terry logged a combined 31 minutes in the wins against Charlotte and Houston.
Terry returned to his preferred role of coming off the bench since Bradley’s return, but has been in a shooting slump in January. He shot just 37% from the field while averaging just 6 points per game, down from an average of 11.5 for the rest of the season. If he is not scoring, Terry must find other avenues to get involved in the Celtics offense.
When Rondo was out with a two-game suspension, the JET entered the starting line-up as the point guard and proved himself as an underrated passer. Terry posted 11 assists against the Bucks in December, showing his worth as a distributor of the ball. Terry is especially proficient at drawing the defense in with dribble penetration, which allows him to set his teammates up for open shots on the drive and kick – this was something he did very often during his tenure with Dallas. The Celtics as we all know live and die by the jumpshot, and Terry’s ability to facilitate the shot could very well be a factor on offense.
With the improvement in production from Jeff Green and Courtney Lee, Terry should feel less pressure to carry the bench’s scoring load.This (theoretically, from a fan’s point of view) should enable him to relax and shoot the ball with confidence. We might have caught a glimpse of Terry emerging from his shooting slump against Chicago, hitting some big shots in overtime to almost snatch the win for the C’s. Things are yet uncertain, but it should only be a matter of time until we see the JET taking full flight once again.