Terry Rozier showed up at ESPN on Tuesday morning with a PUMA-branded flamethrower and, even during what’s dubbed a “car wash,” still managed to set ablaze all things Celtics while making appearances on the network's programming.
Picking up where he left off after Boston’s season-ending loss to the Milwaukee Bucks less than a week ago, Rozier vented about the sacrifices he made this season and the challenge of playing alongside stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. He critiqued the coaching staff’s game-planning then suggested that he, “might have to go,” if Boston elected to run back a similar roster next season.
All this as Rozier prepares to wade into the often unforgiving and always uncertain waters of restricted free agency, where the Celtics, should they still extend a $4.3 million qualifying offer next month, will have the opportunity to match any outside offer that Rozier receives.
Let’s start here: Rozier’s honesty is appreciated but also slightly misguided. Rozier offered a rare window into the Celtics’ locker room all season long (save those hot takes for Celtics Post Up, Terry!) and allowed us to better understand some of the frustrations that lingered this season.
Alas, Rozier, whether on his own volition or under the advice of those around him, seems hellbent now on talking his way into a better situation after a frustrating year. And you can’t help but wonder if he’s hurting himself in the quest to move on.
While Rozier's frustrations are not unreasonable — he went from being a playoff hero to a minute-crunched backup — this scorched-Earth tour has not been a particularly good look for a player trying to sell himself to the rest of the NBA. All this while the possibility remains that the Celtics might have their own guard vacancies depending on what Irving decides about his own future, or if the team is forced to trade Marcus Smart as part of the Anthony Davis pursuit.
Teams around the NBA know Rozier had to take a backseat this year and had two postseasons worth of intriguing data to show that he could indeed be an impact player in the right situation. By venting so quickly after the season, it will leave some front offices leery about whether his focus is on the greater good of the team or simply on himself.
Rozier routinely admitted how difficult it was for the younger players to have to take a step back after steering Boston’s 2018 playoff run, and he was the first one to point out how Irving’s mood often dictated that of the team as a whole.
Alas, Rozier never quite got past mad, and he didn’t make much of a case for a larger role during the regular season. The Celtics were 9.6 points per 100 possessions better with Rozier on the bench this season. That included a minus-1.2 net rating during his 1,791 minutes on the court — the lowest rating among regulars — and the team’s net rating spiked to plus-8.4 in Rozier’s 2,165 minutes off the court, the highest number on the team among any player.
Rozier was better in the postseason (more so against Indiana than Milwaukee) and particularly when he didn’t let his shot-making effect his defensive intensity. The Celtics owned a net rating of plus-2.8 in Rozier’s 162 minutes of court time over nine games, and the team had a net rating of minus-4.3 in his 270 minutes on the bench. His minutes eroded a bit when Marcus Smart returned from injury.
Rozier has vented about having to morph the way he played when he shared the court with Irving but, alas, that’s the downside of being behind an All-NBA point guard. What that ignores is that Rozier owned a net rating of plus-4.2 in 441 minutes alongside Irving and then plummeted to minus-3.1 in the 1,350 minutes without him this regular season. Rozier’s individual output improved without Irving, his usage rate jumping 5 percent without him, but it sort of hammers home that individual success sometimes blinded Rozier from the fact that his biggest payday would have come from team success.
But that’s the story of the Celtics in a nutshell. Sometimes players were too focused on their individual goals and not enough on figuring out how to make it work as a team. Rozier was second on the team in touches this season and, even if Hayward did have more plays run for him, Rozier never figured out how to get the most out of the second-unit offense and give Boston the sort of bench spark that could have differentiated it from rivals.
Rozier seems pretty confident there’s a payday out there somewhere for him. He reportedly turned down in the neighborhood of $12 million per year before the season in hopes of finding a bigger paycheck on the open market.
Maybe he will. But his mouth isn’t helping. Rozier needs to trust his talents, ignore anyone that’s feeding him bad advice, and simply hope teams will invest in his future based on those few times he wasn’t stuffed in the trunk the past couple seasons.
The Celtics could have dealt Rozier this season, but they kept him around believing he was needed insurance, both in the short and long term. It will be interesting to see if Rozier’s recent squawking sours the team on their desire to bring him back in the event of a roster overhaul.
It might have closed the door on the opportunity he wanted all along.
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