Wednesday, March 3, 2010

THHB's Top 10 Hawks of the Decade: Number Three

First time checking out our End of the Hawks Decade articles?

A Decade of Hawks Aughts (and Aught-Nots),

Top Hawks by Statistical Category

THHB's Top 10 (and more) Hawks of the Decade, #10, #9, #8, #7, #6, #5, #4

We're down to the last three Hawks--most of you probably have done the math and figured out whose left (like commenter dmorton surmised by #7)--hey, it wasn't the best of decades for a sports franchise--there weren't many who stood out (or lasted) for a decent part of the decade.

Now we move onto one of THHB's all time favorites. We've got an official award for the opposing player who does the extraordinary during our game reviews named after him. He was THE hawk for the first half of the decade.

The Number Three Hawk of the Decade is:

Jason Terry

We love Jet. The way he flew down the court with the ball. The automatic nature of his jump shot. The headband and the high socks.

JT was part of the fabled 1999 draft that netted the Hawks Terry, a few years of Dion Glover, even less of Cal Bowdler, and the vapor that was Jumaine Jones as a Hawk.

Going into that draft, there were (5) point-ish guards that were potential lottery picks. The Hawks, having traded their PG of the 90's, Mookie Blaylock, to Oakland for their pick, would select #10 and were predicted to select one of those guards. Of the bunch, it was expected that Steve Francis and Baron Davis would be long gone by the 10th pick (and they were). The others that the Hawks would have a shot at would be between Terry, Utah's Andre Miller, and Duke's freshman William Avery. Miller would be somewhat of a longshot to make it to 10, leaving the Hawks choosing between Terry and Avery.

Some predictions had the Hawks selecting the young Avery, but ultimately the Hawks chose wisely and grabbed Terry, who was coming off a championship career at Arizona. Terry immediately got to work with the Hawks working on his jump shot constantly (his late night trips to the new Philips Arena practice floor to shoot jumpers was a popular story at the time), learning the nuances of running the point, and fighting for playing time under veteran coach Lenny Wilkens.

A running theme during Terry's tenure as a Hawk was the TV drama-esque question of "Is He or Isn't He" in regards to being a point guard. Bigger point guards were brought in (Emanuel Davis, Boris Diaw among the group) to play with JT so he could he could just focus on scoring and then the team would shift back to Jet playing the point, with Glover at shooting guard. Despite the back and forth, Terry managed to post career highs in Assist Rate, Assists per game, and Total Assists in 2002-2003, finishing in the NBA Top 10 in each of those categories. For the decade, Terry led the Hawks in the same categories.

Still, Terry never really seemed comfortable triggering the offense full time, leading to the famous statement by his last GM, Billy Knight, that defining who is the "point guard" isn't necessary---there are just "guards".

The two highest scoring games of Terry's career came as a Hawk, both occurring in 2002-2003.

The first was an epic shootout between JT and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, where JT set his career highs in point (46) and free throws made and attempted (13/17). Nowitzki, who had (42), Steve Nash, and Tim Hardaway put away the Hawks late in the fourth quarter.

The other was the home finale against the Cavaliers, where JT scored (43) and dimed (10) times. The Hawks trailed by (3) when the Cavs missed their free throw with a few seconds left and JT took the ball, elected not to call a timeout, raced down the court around a strong Ira Newble screen, and buried the game tying three. The Hawks would win in double-OT (and probably got Newble a fat multi-year contract with the Cavs that offseason).

One of the least told Terry traits was his ability to get into scraps on the court. Terry famously got into it with (then) Pacers PG Anthony Johnson and has continued his fiesty personality in Dallas. And he was the only one to have Shareef Abdur-Rahim's back in his fight with Kenny Thomas in 2002.

During interviews, JT is very personable, always flashing his big smile. While he doesn't ever say very much in those interviews, Jet was always willing to talk to the media after games, something strong on a franchise that didn't experience much winning while he was in the home locker room at Philips Arena. THHB's Jason Terry Tip-Of-The-Cap awards during game reviews are named for Terry's propensity to acknowledging his opponent after games---and there were plenty of chances for Terry to tip that cap throughout his (403) games as a Hawk.

In the summer of 2003, Terry tried to get away from all the losing, signing an offer sheet with the Jazz. A 3 year, 21 million dollar deal, the Hawks waited the (14) days before matching, but not before Terry asked that it not be matched. To his credit, once back in the ATL, Terry made the best of the rest of his stay before being shipped off to Dallas a part of Billy Knight's reset of the roster in 2004.

We loved Terry's speed, his shot, and his personality. We wish he had some success in the ATL, but he certainly has made up for it in Dallas with the Mavs. His skills, production (4th in PER, 1st in Assist Rate, 1st in Steals Rate), and attitude despite his constantly changing role on the court, having weak coaching, and no veterans to help along the way, endeared himself to THHB and has earned his ranking as the #3 Hawk of the Decade.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Enjoyed this piece, JT was one of my favorites.