Jason Terry will be the first to tell you that he hasn't played as well as he can this season. If the Larry O'Brien tattoo on his left bicep won't say it for him, he'll also tell you that he expects his performance to come around. Along with the entire team taking shape, Terry is likely to return to his usual form during the Celtics' five-game homestand.
When Terry signed with Boston via free agency, the Celtics didn't know then that he was going to be the replacement for Ray Allen. However, when Allen departed for Miami, the pressure of filling the void left by the sharp-shooter and future Hall of Famer fell directly on Terry and much to the excitement of Boston fans, his confidence didn't waver.
Fast forward more than two months into the season and Terry hasn't exactly delivered the production or clutch shooting that the team became accustomed to from Allen. Fans might be somewhat disappointed, but it's hard to put much of the blame for Terry's slow start on the veteran himself.
For one, being on a new team and part of a new offensive scheme isn't easy for any player, but that rings especially true for Terry during his career. As commenter "kgainez" pointed out, Terry has a tendency of starting slow in his first year in a new system. Granted, other than this season with Boston and his rookie campaign in Atlanta, there is only one other occasion where Terry joined a new team and struggled and that was in 2004-05 with Dallas. Still, in those three seasons, Terry not only has his lowest scoring averages, but the fewest shot attempts of his career.
While Doc Rivers has acknowledged Terry's vast offensive skill set and ability to score off the dribble - something he eluded to not being the case with Allen - the Celtics have still been using Terry in a similar fashion to Allen. That means when Terry is on the floor, there are still a number of offensive possessions that are being run where Rajon Rondo is dribbling away at the top of arc, waiting for Terry to come off multiple screens for an open shot. That role is new for Terry and no one can argue that Allen's ability to find space off the ball and run defenders ragged isn't unparallelled. That's not to say Terry hasn't been effective at times in that role, but it's one that he's starting to become more comfortable with.
What has probably been the largest factor in Terry's early-season inconsistencies was the need for him to be in the starting lineup. Obviously when the Celtics signed Terry, it was with the intention of him coming off the bench in the sixth-man role that he's become used to this late in his career. With Avery Bradley on the shelf to start the year, Courtney Lee was supposed to be the stopgap in the starting lineup at the two-guard. In dealing with his own struggles and non-existent offensive production early on, Lee had to replaced in the lineup by Terry.
Now, with Bradley back and the rotations set, Terry can return to the bench, where he's had his most success. Terry's 3-point shooting, overall percentage from the field and scoring per minute are all better when he doesn't start. Much of that is due to Terry being more of a primary option off the bench and the anchor of the second unit. That allows him to handle the ball much more and use the pick-and-roll game to score off the dribble, which is what he's most comfortable doing.
So besides returning to his sixth-man role, why could Terry's sluggish play be coming to an end? Simply, because the Celtics are at home. Including this season and his final two with the Mavericks, Terry has been much more effective playing on his home floor. Along with averaging two more points at the Garden, Terry's percentage from long range jumps from .298 on the road to .437 at home.
As he showed in pouring in 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the win over Phoenix, Terry feeds off the crowd, which is no wonder because he's always the first to ask the Boston faithful to grow louder and get on their feet. Terry will have the chance to continue doing that with the Celtics playing nine of their next 12 games in Boston, including four-straight to close out their current homestand.
The Celtics' charter won't be traveling much over the next month, but the Garden is likely to get plenty of Jet takeoffs.