BOSTON — Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was reflecting on the loss of Marcus Smart and, keeping things light, he sneaked in a little zinger about backup guard Terry Rozier.
"No one completely replaces Marcus but it's an opportunity for other guys to play,” said Ainge. "Maybe Terry will have some fun now.”
After the Celtics defeated the Wizards during their regular-season finale in Washington, Rozier told reporters that the 2018-19 season, “hasn’t been fun, personally.” He added that, “Last year, I feel like, was more fun to me. But it’s not all about me.”
Rozier, who starred in Boston’s playoff run last year while starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving, has struggled with moving back to a reserve role. The injury to Smart opens the door for increased minutes this postseason and Ainge had a little fun at Rozier’s expense.
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But Rozier wasn’t bashful when asked about the trickle-down effect of Smart’s injury.
“Obviously, it’s tough, especially with a guy like Marcus, his presence and the way he changes the game,” said Rozier. "Obviously it’s tough seeing [Smart go down] but I feel like I’m more important to the series now. I’m more needed. Obviously, I’m going to have to step up. I’m gonna be ready for it.”
Rozier noted that, before Wednesday’s announcement that Smart would miss 4-6 weeks, he hadn’t braced himself for the possibility of Smart missing extended time. Rozier thinks he’ll huddle with coach Brad Stevens moving forward to talk about what that means for his role, even if he doesn’t think that conversation is really needed.
"I’m just ready for the opportunity,” said Rozier. "I’m pretty sure me and Coach probably will talk but there's nothing really to talk about. It’s about me being ready and stepping up and being ready when my name is called.”
And does Rozier feel like he’s ready?
"I feel like a guy with money on the line, when it’s time to get to it, I’ll be ready for it,” said Rozier. "I’m not kicking myself in the foot stressing out about it. I’m just thankful for the opportunity and I’ll be ready for it.”
Rozier averaged 16.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.3 rebounds over 36.6 minutes per game while making 19 playoff starts during Boston’s run to the cusp of the NBA Finals last year.
This year, Rozier has averaged 9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists over 22.7 minutes while coming off the bench in 65 of his 79 appearances this season.
Rozier acknowledged that no one player can replace Smart and said it’ll take a collective effort. But last year helped brace Rozier for opportunities like this.
"It’s kind of different but obviously I’m going to have more opportunity than I have all season at a time like this,” said Rozier. “Obviously, last year I knew what the situation was — Gordon got hurt early in the first game of the season last year and Kyrie was hurt with plenty of games to go in the regular season, so I knew going into the playoffs what it was.
"This year, it kind of hit all of us. But, like I said, I’m going to be ready.”
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