Versus Column: Jason Terry vs Nick Johnson

Daily Wildcat sports reporters debate which of the two should get more playing time this season.

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Colin Darland | The Daily Wildcat Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats men's basketball team went head to head in its 2011 red & blue scrimmage match from McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, October 22, 2011. The red squad defeated the blue squad 67 to 54.

Two Wildcats from two very different eras of Arizona basketball will join up on the Houston Rockets this season. Jason Terry and Nick Johnson are two of the best guards in Arizona history, but will have to fight each other for playing time off Kevin McHale’s bench.

Terry, a member of the 1997 National Championship team, has played 15 years in the NBA for four different franchises.He has been part of the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. In addition to winning an NCAA national championship, Terry was a member of the 2010-2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks squad and won the 2008-2009 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Johnson, who was just drafted in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets, played three years at Arizona under Sean Miller. Johnson finished his Arizona career 24th on the all-time scoring list with 1,333 points and led the Wildcats to a 33-5 record and Elite Eight berth in his final season.

Terry is the crafty, old vet, while Johnson is the young gun looking to make a name for himself. For a Houston team looking to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season, playing Terry more than Johnson makes more sense.

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Essentially, Houston has a win-now mentality that isn’t suited for a rookie.

Not that Johnson isn’t a valuable member of the Rockets, because he is; Terry just fits that win-now mentality better.Just a handful of years ago, Terry averaged above 15 points per game and was a key bench cog on a NBA championship team. Since then, he’s struggled with knee issues and saw his scoring drop to a career low 4.5 points per game last year.

Anyone who has watched JET knows he’s a spark plug when healthy.

For a Houston team that finished 26th in bench scoring last season, which was down from 18th the year before, playing Terry for 20-25 minutes a game gives the team much needed 3-point shooting — and another player that defenses have to account for.

— Roberto Payne

VS

Over the summer, the Houston Rockets added two former Wildcats from vastly different eras: Jason Terry and Nick Johnson.Terry, 37, is at the end of his career and played in the late ’90s for Arizona, and Johnson, a rookie, played last season for the Wildcats.

Terry won a national championship at Arizona, and Johnson is part of the early Sean Miller era when the Wildcats came close to the Final Four, but haven’t yet reached the promised land.

Ex-Wildcats that played under Miller are gradually replacing ex-Wildcats who played for Lute Olson, and the Terry-Johnson situation is no different.

While Terry was a better college player — he won national player of the year in 1999 and has had a storied NBA career that includes an NBA title and the 2009 Sixth Man of the Year — he’s nearing the end of his career.

Last season, he scored a career-low 4.5 points and missed the last half of the 2013-2014 season with a knee injury.His role on the Rockets will be as mentor; some Houston players call him “Coach Terry.”

Johnson, who has a 41.5 inch max vertical, is on the incline. He’s still a bit short for shooting guard in the NBA and isn’t a natural point guard, but someone who can play defense, can rebound like he can and has his athleticism is sure to be a spark off the bench.

Johnson’s very valuable. While he’s not really a combo guard, he did play point guard in college, most notably as a freshman in an overtime loss at No. 12 Florida.

Johnson’s still developing. Last year, he added more offense to his game; he had games like the Sweet Sixteen against San Diego State where he scored 15 points in the last 2:45, and at Michigan where he made six free throws in the final 25 seconds.

One former Wildcat will soar for the Rockets — and it is bunnies, not JET.

— James Kelley

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