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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Jaylen Brown's aggressive play sparks Celtics' dominant win over Bulls

Jaylen Brown's aggressive play sparks Celtics' dominant win over Bulls

BOSTON – Too many times this season, Jaylen Brown has been more than open to the idea of letting the game come to him.

Not on this night.

Brown played with a level of aggression offensively that we have seen few and far between from him this season, the kind that allowed him to finish at the rim consistently and in doing so, allowed the Boston Celtics to finish off the Bulls in no time to the tune of a 111-82 whipping.

Brown led the Celtics (8-6) with 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists.

It was the kind of performance Brown needed to deliver, as well as the kind that Boston was thirsting for after a string of lackluster performances that raised a ton of questions about this team that a squad pegged to be among the last teams standing in the East, should not have to deal with. 

 “I think the biggest thing is, for our whole team, Jaylen can get to the rim at any time,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And I think the biggest thing is just continuing to not only finish with strength but also just continuing to make the right reads. And I think he’s improved in that.”

Brown acknowledged after the game that, after film study in preparation for Wednesday’s game against the Bulls, he came in wanting to make a conscious effort to get to the rim more than he had in previous games.

It worked.

And Chicago’s porous defense helped make Brown’s plan, a lot easier to execute.

“Just trying to be aggressive on both ends,” Brown said.

Having the right mindset was also key for Brown's big game. 

“It’s not my style to point fingers and things like that,” he said. “I have to play better. I just got to come out and play with the right mindset.”

Because of his 6-7 frame and strength on the wing, he has the ability to get into the lane and absorb contact.

That was not needed on Wednesday because more often than not, Brown was able to get into the paint and finish at the rim without a single Chicago body touching him.

You hear a lot of talk about how Brown’s defense and shot-making have to be at a relatively high level for Boston and Brown to be successful this season.

A year ago, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game in addition to drawing the toughest perimeter defensive assignment most nights.

But more than just the numbers, his true value lies in his ability to stay on the attack at both ends of the floor.

“When he plays like that,” said Boston’s Al Horford, “we look so much better.”

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Blowout win over Bulls has Celtics cautiously optimistic about future success

Blowout win over Bulls has Celtics cautiously optimistic about future success

BOSTON – The mood inside the Boston Celtics locker room was very business-like after they absolutely gave the Chicago Bulls a 111-82 beating.

Boston (8-6) is considered an NBA power this season while the Bulls (4-11) are just bad.

This is how it’s supposed to go, right?

While pleased with the victory, Celtics players have a cautiously optimistic outlook going forward.

“It’s much needed,” Marcus Smart told NBC Sports Boston following Wednesday’s blowout win. “But it’s only one game. We got tough tests coming up Friday (against Toronto) and Saturday (against Utah). That’s going to be the real tests, to see how we do. But this was a good start.”

Having lost four of their last five games - all on the road - has left Boston few positive takeaways from the trip. 

Among them?

A renewed humility as well as a better understanding of what they thought was a good effort, just isn’t good enough when you are the hunted and no longer a hunter.

“As a team, it’s our second year together. For most of us guys, we’ve never been in this position,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “So, we went from, ‘I feel like going after people (to)' ...  people are coming after us; just making that adjustment. We’re learning that right now.”

 And it is a lesson that brought about a performance on Wednesday that ranks among the team’s best this season.

Yes, it came against a Bulls team that on so many levels, stinks.

But the fact that the Celtics took control of the game in the first half and never relented for the rest of the night, speaks to how – at least for one night – they played the right way and the result was exactly what a team picked to be among the last teams standing at the end of the season, should expect.

It was the kind of performance that frankly, many expected to see more often from the Celtics this season.

“Coming into the season, we were all expecting that we were just gonna take over, and we’re very dangerous,” Horford said with a grin. “I feel we’ve been humbled a little bit. We’re in a position now we have an opportunity to start building that. We have to do it every night. If we do that we have a chance to be special.”

There’s no getting around how Wednesday’s victory was indeed a feel-good win.

But this team has been through enough ups and downs this season to know that going forward, there has been a high level of cautious optimism, the kind that comes about with a renewed humility and better understanding of what it means to be the team everyone’s aiming to take down.

“We have to get back to playing hard,” Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. “We needed that. We just have to keep it going.”

And as far as the upcoming schedule, Rozier added, “we’re trying to get back to playing good basketball so this is the best way to test us.”

Indeed, the significance of this week is not lost on Boston's Jaylen Brown. 

 “We got a big week coming up, this weekend two back-to-back games, two teams that we lost to previously," Brown said. "We got to do what we got to do to get a win.”

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