DALLAS (AP) — Jason Terry smiled for the cameras in Dallas again Friday, branded "Mavericks royalty" by his old coach and anticipating a happy reunion with the franchise he helped win its first NBA title.
Terry was in town with his new team, the Boston Celtics, and the first order of business was wiping out a bad night in New Orleans and ending a two-game skid. He wouldn't think of ignoring the significance of the moment, though.
"To see everyone is going to be heartwarming," Terry said. "It feels good. It feels like home, as it should."
The veteran shooting guard spent eight seasons with the Mavericks, endearing himself to the home crowd through civic involvement and the "Jet" nickname he fostered through his signature celebration of big 3-pointers — running down the court with his arms spread like wings.
"I'm very comfortable here and so I can imagine the first shot's definitely going to be a 3," he said. "I'm just excited."
The 35-year-old Terry is no longer with Dallas because the Mavericks decided to get younger in the backcourt while building salary cap space for a big move in free agency. They struck out on point guard Deron Williams last summer and figure to go after center Dwight Howard this offseason.
Meantime, Dallas has jeopardized a 12-year playoff streak by going with a roster overloaded with one-year contracts for a second straight season. The Mavericks (32-36) started Friday 3½ games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the final Western Conference playoff spot with just 14 games remaining.
"It's tough because I still am a Mav fan at heart," said Terry, who signed a three-year deal with the Celtics and has seen a dip in his scoring average while his 3-point percentage hovers around his career mark. "But again, when you break up a team, that's what happens."
The Mavericks are preoccupied with their precarious playoff situation, but Terry's former coach, Rick Carlisle, and few remaining teammates are looking forward to seeing him. They're also unanimous in their belief that the reception will be rousing.
The best gauge the Mavericks have for such a moment is Michael Finley. The longtime Maverick was let go in an amnesty claim in 2005 and received a long standing ovation when he returned — even though it was with the rival San Antonio Spurs.
"He was a great ambassador for the city," Dirk Nowitzki said of Terry. "Always busy in the community every day and on the court we all know what he meant for us. You know he deserves a big ovation."
Dallas forward Shawn Marion goes way back to his college days with Terry, when they worked Michael Jordan camps together. And Carlisle had a closer player-coach relationship than one might expect because their daughters attended the same school.
"He is one of the most beloved players I think in the history of the franchise because of his personality, his relationship with the fans and he was a great player and he was a prime-time great player in the clutch," Carlisle said. "Guys like that always distinguish themselves.
''He's Mavericks royalty."