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Terry's faith is rewarded (cont.)

Posted: Monday June 12, 2006 11:17AM; Updated: Monday June 12, 2006 11:41AM

Unless you have so much belief in yourself that you know it's going to come out in your favor, like it did for J.T. This summer his three-year deal expires, albeit as a member of a possible NBA champion following a trade to Dallas in the summer of '04. And Terry finds himself the best available point guard in a thin free-agent market.

"I'm a God-fearing man," Terry said last night when I asked if he was pleased by the way his contractual gamble had worked out. "It was all ordained to happen by God. Before I even knew how it was going to work out, God had a plan for me."


Are you glad it worked out this way?

"Well, yeah," Terry says.

Luck is great, but hard work doesn't hurt either, and that isn't a foreign concept to Terry. As a kid, J.T. played football and basketball. His football career ended when he was in ninth grade and his mother caught him wearing his pads around the house and confiscated them. Making matters worse, that same year, Terry didn't make the Franklin High junior varsity basketball team. So he spent the winter and spring honing his game, and the next season he won the starting point guard slot on the varsity squad.

In college he remained dedicated to the game, going so far as to claim that during his senior season at Arizona, he "wouldn't even go to class" because he was spending so much time working on his game, practicing those jumpers. In between his first and second seasons in the NBA, Terry went to San Antonio to work on his midrange game with George Gervin, whom he'd watched on ESPN Classic.

Several times during these Finals, Terry has referred to himself as a high-percentage shooter, which would sound like bragging if it wasn't accurate. Terry shot 47 percent from the field this season, on a steady diet of midrange jumpers and three-pointers. When he was needed to score, he did, putting up 32 in Game 1. When other guys were rolling, Terry got them the ball, posting nine assists in Game 2.

And now he's found a home in Dallas, where he's been embraced by the rowdy, loud and proud Dallas supporters. Terry's always had a knack for the interesting and quirky, the stuff that fans love to latch on to, from his myriad superstitions -- wearing his entire uniform to sleep during college, eating chicken before every game, always wearing five pairs of socks -- to the just plain serendipitous: his elementary-school physical education teacher was retired NBA legend Slick Watts. ("It was probably the easiest gym class I ever had. All we did was play basketball. That's all we did! And I really fell in love with basketball from him.")

One hour before Game 2 tipped off, there were two notes visible in Terry's locker. One was a memo issued by the Mavs to J.T. that listed a few phone numbers to call to get the lights turned on at the team's practice gym, so Terry could hold his own impromptu late-night shooting sessions, staying until he gets 400, 500, 600 made jumpers.

The other note was a white sheet of paper displaying the Bible verse Hebrews 10:35: "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward."

Interpret it however you want, but it sounds like even the King James Version understands the NBA collective-bargaining agreement.

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.