BOSTON – With all the upheaval the Boston Celtics were going through roster-wise during the offseason, you rarely heard Terry Rozier’s name come up.
While he was among the players available for the right deal, Rozier didn’t give it much thought.
He focused on what he could control which was getting his body in the best shape possible in addition to working on his perimeter shooting down in Miami with other NBA players with the goal being that it’ll be on display this season.
Rozier’s shooting numbers aren’t great.
From the field he has made 36.4 percent of his shots and from 3-point range he’s knocking down just 33.3 percent of his shots.
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But as we saw in Boston’s 95-94 win over Toronto on Sunday, often it’s not about making a bunch of shots but rather, making the big ones.
And Rozier did just that, converting a 4-point play at the very end of the second quarter only to top that with a 3-pointer near the end of the third that gave the Celtics a one-point going into the fourth which was a huge psychological lift for a Boston team that spent a good chunk of the first half and the third quarter for that matter, playing from behind.
With Marcus Smart fluctuating back and forth in the starting lineup due to injuries, Rozier gives some much-needed stability to the Celtics’ second unit.
Of Boston’s 14 games this season, Rozier has been the top scorer among the reserves six times – that’s more than any other Celtic player.
Through Rozier’s first two years in the league, his ability to pressure ball-handlers and his rebounding are what got him on the floor for Boston.
But considering all the changes the Celtics have made from a year ago, among the biggest is the need for an established scorer to come off the bench. And Rozier has made no secret about wanting – no, make that expecting – to be that player.
Even before the Celtics shook up their roster with major changes, Rozier was preparing himself for what he anticipated would be a more expanded role.
He was traveling across the country, putting himself through two and three workout sessions daily. His workouts included playing games at times against a mixture of NBA talent, ranging from teammate Kyrie Irving to Washington All-Star John Wall along with a couple of former Celtics in Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green.
But more than an improved game, Rozier is making the most of an enhanced opportunity to showcase what he can do since Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas are gone to Detroit and Cleveland, respectively.
Rozier learned from both players.
Among the biggest lessons?
Bradley was the last link to the previous Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Bradley gradually saw his playing time increase to the point where he eventually replaced Allen in the starting lineup.
Boston traded for Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix, and initially had him coming off the bench. But an injury to Marcus Smart led to Thomas being inserted in the starting lineup and he never left.
So to a large degree, Rozier is playing with a much clearer mind about what he is tasked with doing, knowing that his opportunity to play will be coming every game. And that assurance has made Rozier an extremely confident player which has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.
“Very confident” is how Al Horford describes Rozier.
“I think for last year, having so many guys ahead of him, he was still trying to find his way,” Horford said. “Now he understands what he needs to do for our team. He’s confident. He’s putting pressure on defense.”
And as much as what he does now helps the Celtics, Horford envisions him being able to have an even bigger impact going forward.
“He’s going to keep getting better,” Horford said. “I still think he’s not where we want him to be but he’s making a lot of strides.
Horford added, “He’s going out there aggressive and that’s what we need from him. He needs to stay aggressive. As long as he keeps doing that, we’ll be good.”