Celtics

Celtics should be in no rush to trade Terry Rozier

Celtics should be in no rush to trade Terry Rozier

While many eyes around the NBA might be monitoring Terry Rozier’s situation, the Boston Celtics should be in no rush to move their backup point guard unless a rival is willing to greatly overpay for his services.

Like many on Boston’s roster, Rozier is adjusting to a different role this season. After shining as a leading man while starting in place of Kyrie Irving during the Celtics’ improbable playoff run last year, Rozier has shuffled back to a reserve role where minutes haven’t always been plentiful.

If Rozier has been angered by the downturn in minutes, he’s done a good job of masking it publicly. Even after playing a season-low 15 minutes in Boston’s head-slapping loss to the Orlando Magic last month, Rozier suggested that coach Brad Stevens has the hardest job on the team balancing playing time for a deep roster.

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Given Boston’s uneven play out of the gates, it’s not hard to see why there is already overcaffeinated speculation about Rozier’s future (but even November seems absurd for Celtics trade rumors). Rozier is too valuable to the Celtics, both now and further down the road, to make the sort of reactionary move that Danny Ainge has so frequently avoided during his tenure.

The Celtics hold Rozier and his potential in high regard and it’s part of the reason they didn’t rush to deal him this summer despite him using the playoffs as a coming-out party. 

Even if Irving is completely healthy and fully committed to re-signing with the Celtics after the season, Rozier provides great insurance given Irving’s injury history. Plus, nothing is certain about Irving’s future until that new contract is officially inked.

While the Celtics most certainly have luxury tax concerns starting this season, the team seems in no rush to finalize the avenues by which it could dip below the tax before season’s end. Boston might very well end up moving a key rotation piece before February’s deadline in order to both alleviate a talent traffic jam and get below the tax, but that does not necessarily have to involve Rozier.

Some will protest that, with Irving set to re-sign and Marcus Smart having inked a big-money extension this past summer, there does not seem to be a path for Rozier to return at a high price tag after this season. Ainge knows that rosters can change quickly, and even with plenty of deep-pocketed suitors awaiting, there are few certainties in restricted free agency.

Even with a healthy Irving, Rozier is a vital part of Boston’s bench and one of the few reserves capable of consistently providing a scoring burst. His shot has defied him a bit in the early going as Rozier has connected on just 16 of his last 51 attempts and the team owns a meager offensive rating of 95.7 during his 227 minutes of total floor time.

Rozier’s defensive tenacity has helped balanced that out. The Celtics own a net rating of plus-4.2 with Rozier on the court, as opponents have an offensive rating of just 91.4 during his floor time.

Some have suggested that Rozier needs starters minutes to play at the level displayed during the postseason, but Rozier’s per-36 minute splits last season were almost identical from when he was a starter and a reserve. And little changed in the postseason.

As a free-agent-to-be, it’s natural that Rozier would want as big of a stage as possible to assert his talents and enhance his potential offseason payday. But he’s also acknowledged that everyone benefits when a team wins.

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It seems only a matter of time until the Celtics harness their talents this season. They’re enduring understandable growing pains at the moment. Maybe the preseason should have braced us more for the turbulence they’ve encountered. That trade rumors cropped up before Thanksgiving only hammers home the great expectations surrounding this team.

It also means the Rozier speculation will linger throughout the season. But the Celtics can confidently carry him through the year and know there’s still the potential to recoup value next summer, even if just as a sign-and-trade asset.

At the start of camp, Ainge offered high praise for what Rozier could bring to the team this season.

“Terry was really good last year and Terry’s a winner,” said Ainge. "I expect that Terry’s going to have that swagger that he finished the season with in maybe a lesser role to start the season with everybody healthy. And I think he’ll be dynamic in that role.”

Ainge can often be seen sitting with some of Boston’s top reserves like Rozier or Smart after practices and shootarounds. He’s said he’ll be a sympathetic ear if they have concerns about playing time.

"There were times when I thought I was better than Larry Bird and someone had to talk me off the ledge,” said Ainge. "So I’ll do the same.”

Ainge has never been one to make a move just because things haven’t gone as planned for a short amount of time. It seems a fair bet that no one will have to talk him off a ledge after a 6-4 start.

And nobody on the team is more invested in Rozier than Ainge, who boldly drafted him at No. 16 in the 2015 draft. Ainge knows he found something unique in Rozier and won’t rush into a move — not unless a team makes an offer he can’t refuse.

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Celtics players' theories on why they play up - and down - to their competition

Celtics players' theories on why they play up - and down - to their competition

BOSTON -- The idea that the Boston Celtics are at their best against the best teams is real.

So anyone who has followed this team this season wasn’t the least bit shocked that their three-game losing streak ended on Wednesday night with a 117-108 win over the Toronto Raptors who have been at the top of the Eastern Conference standings most of this season.

Boston (26-18) has now taken two of the three head-to-head games against the Raptors (33-13) which speaks volumes about how they have fared against the top teams in the East - Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana and Philadelphia.

Against those four teams, Boston has a combined 6-3 record which is the best combined record of any of the four aforementioned teams against one another.

So what gives?

Why are the Celtics so much better against the Toronto, Philadelphia and Milwaukee’s of the world, but get drubbed against the Brooklyn, Orlando and Miami’s of the NBA?

“We have to play all those teams that aren’t the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philly 76ers, we have to play those teams like they are,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “That only helps us, keeps us in a rhythm, a great rhythm and it holds us accountable for doing the right things.”

Terry Rozier added, “We just have to do a better job of beating the teams that are not so good … we gotta be locked in every game. We have to play with that intensity.”

Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has a theory, too.

“It just comes with our maturity as a team,” Irving said. “I did a poor job of setting an example for these young guys of what it’s like to get something out of your teammates. You go and say something publicly and it ends up being received in so many different ways. You never know how fragile or what guys are going through if you say things like that. You’re expecting results but at the same time I should have kept it in-house. Going forward, I want ... to get the best out of them but I won’t do it publicly like that.”

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Call to LeBron James proves Kyrie Irving's focus is on winning

Call to LeBron James proves Kyrie Irving's focus is on winning

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving wants to win. Badly.

That’s the big takeaway after his jaw-dropping revelation Wednesday night that, in the aftermath of his pointed comments toward Boston’s younger players after Saturday’s loss in Orlando, Irving phoned former teammate LeBron James for guidance on how to be a better leader to a young team with championship aspirations.


Consider how difficult it must be for a player of Irving’s magnitude to essentially swallow a bit of his pride and make a call in which he had to admit that, not only did he not handle his situation well when he was a younger player, but also acknowledge that he was essentially becoming everything he resented now that roles have been reversed all these years later.

With the benefit of time, Irving now understands why James was so demanding. Irving understands that he was too singularly focused on individual accomplishments and didn’t always recognize the need to sacrifice himself so the team could achieve its championship goals. He understands that, in order for his current team to get to the championship stage the Cavaliers eventually reached, he had to figure out how James got the younger players in Cleveland to embrace what he was preaching.

Irving is admitting fault in hopes his young teammates can learn from his experiences.

In making that call, Irving proved more definitively than ever that winning is all the matters to him now. It shows he understands that part of his legacy will be determined by if he can get the most out of the players alongside him in Boston and deliver them to a championship stage.

“[James] has a legacy he wants to leave, and he has a window he wants to capture,” said Irving. "So I think what that brought me back was like, ‘Alright, how do I get the best out of this group to the success they had last year and then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship?’”

Irving didn’t have to detail his call to James. Back in December, during a road trip to D.C., Irving revealed how he sought advice on growing as a leader but, pressed on who exactly he phoned, he suggested he would never tell reporters.

In revealing his call to James, Irving laid himself bare a bit. All at the cost of winning.

By simply referencing James, Irving left reporters salivating for more details. When about 15 reporters shouted follow-up questions after his revelation, Irving smiled and fired back, “Aww, relax. Relax. Relax. We’re good. Relax, OK? One question at a time because when you bring up Bron, of course it brings extra questions.”

He didn’t want to offer much more specifics about the call but he was willing to admit that, in the firestorm created by his comments Saturday, he recognized that he hadn’t handled things right. But the call reaffirmed what he needed to do to get everyone on the same page.

“It gave me a peace of mind to go about what I’ve gotta go do,” said Irving.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has acknowledged recently how his team hasn’t always handled adversity well this season. These 2018-19 Celtics haven’t always shown an ability to turn a negative into a positive.

But maybe that changed Wednesday night.

The Celtics show remarkable resolve in a showdown with the conference-leading Toronto Raptors, first clawing their way out of an early double-digit deficit then fighting as Toronto tried to pull away late. Irving, of course, was spectacular with 27 points and a career-high 18 assists, unwilling to let this game get away from the Celtics.

Irving’s comments after the game might have been even more important, though. Irving acknowledged that Jaylen Brown was right when, after Monday’s loss in Brooklyn, Brown essentially said the team cannot point fingers at each other.

Irving promised to push the younger players but to do so more frequently behind closed doors. He stressed that his words were never meant to hurt his younger teammates, but instead push them to be as good as they can be.

That’s the sort of leadership that younger players should be able to get behind. In taking culpability, Irving made it OK for the rest of the Celtics to admit they haven’t always handled their situations as well as they could.


Maybe this will help fix any fractures that were created by public criticism. Though, more than likely, winning will do that. What’s obvious is that Irving just wants to win and get the most out of his teammates. He hasn’t always approached that the best way but he’s showing that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to become a better leader.

It’s going to take more than a phone call to fix things. But it’s a step. Like a team meeting, it can be a positive, but it’s only another step in getting everyone on this roster on the same page.

But it might be the biggest step yet and one that might have prevented this team from skidding further off the rails. Irving’s call shows he’s growing as a leader and determined to help this team reach its lofty goals.

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