BOSTON — Did you ever watch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals?
The question hangs in the air for what only feels like an uncomfortable span of time before Terry Rozier offers an emphatic, “No.”
Will you ever?
The pause is shorter this time but the response is the same.
It’s been more than nine months since Rozier and the Celtics kicked away an opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals as part of their improbable postseason run. Boston had LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on the ropes, six minutes away from delivering a knockout punch, but its shots wouldn’t cooperate.
No one more than Rozier. After a postseason run in which he made himself and his "Scary Terry" brand a household name, Rozier missed 12 of the 14 shots he put up, including a couple 3-pointers in the final three minutes as the game slipped away.
Rozier had been reflecting on all the positives from that postseason run but when the conversation turned to Game 7, the pain is still palpable.
"I know I missed a lot of shots. I don’t need to see it,” said Rozier. "It’s motivation for sure but it’s not something I want to see. A lot of people around me have gone back and watched it. Obviously, my trainer, my agent, people in my agency, my family.
"I’m cool. I ain’t watching.”
Make no mistake, Rozier remembers all the misses, they still eat at him. Instead of lingering on what could have been, he daydreams of Boston’s upcoming playoff visit and the opportunity to reintroduce himself to the world. If last year was Scary Terry’s breakout party, with Rozier starring in the absence of injured Kyrie Irving, then he is ready for the next evolution: IDGAF Terry.
"For me, I’m going nuts. I’m going to go crazy,” said Rozier. "I’m gonna be giving you some buckets, play defense, try to bring my level of energy up. I’m going up, from this point on until the end of the season. You can see the difference in me playing, just getting my swagger back.
"When I got that IDGAF attitude, like, you can’t guard me … so let me get a bucket. That’s just what it is. Obviously, I feel like Terry Rozier is at his best when I’m in there rebounding. I feel like, if I’m engaged on the boards, then I’m fully engaged all around, not just scoring, and not anything else.”
Rozier has struggled with the transition back to a reserve role this season but he’s offered glimpses of the player most hoped he would be. On Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Rozier scored 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting overall to go along with six rebounds over 24 minutes. He finished with a team-best net rating of plus-16.3 during his court time.
In a season in which Rozier has drawn criticism for struggling to consistently impact games from a bench role, the 25-year-old wants to show that Scary Terry was no fluke.
"I’m blessed to be known by that name by a lot of people that didn’t even know me a year ago. Little kids calling me Scary Terry, everybody knowing me in different cities. I’m super blessed,” said Rozier. “Obviously, a lot of people have high expectations, want me to score 26, 25 in 19 minutes, 18 minutes, that’s just part of basketball, fans don’t really understand things going on.
"Obviously I could play a little bit better, I don’t ever want to use an excuse. I’m not an excuse-making type person. But, like I said, I got the IDGAF.”
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The Celtics own a net rating of just plus-0.6 during Rozier’s 1,581 minutes of court time this season. Among regulars, that’s the worst on the team (next closest: Marcus Morris at plus-2.9). What’s more, Boston’s net rating explodes to plus-8.0 in the 1,895 minutes that Rozier is off the floor.
Rozier has admitted that the transition back to a reserve role hasn’t gone as smoothly as this team probably hoped. He’s far from the only player that struggled with the change — fellow postseason stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have had their woes as well — but Rozier knows a good postseason is the easiest way to make everyone forget about regular-season struggles.
And, as Rozier prepares to wade into restricted free agency, he has a financial stake in rekindling last year’s magic.
Getting back on the playoff stage excites Rozier. Reflecting on the past year, he admitted his breakout happened so suddenly it was hard to digest in the moment.
"I always told my GMB, all my friends and my homies, when things start going good, things start happening like that, and it’s so fast before you even get to catch on, before you acknowledge everything and you just gotta live in the moment,” said Rozier. "You don’t never want to get too high about it, don’t want to be like, ‘What if this runs out?’ You don’t ever want to do that, you just want to live in the moment, stay in that moment, just appreciate everything.
"So when that stuff was going on, it was just like, this is happening back to back. It was just like, 'I gotta stay in this moment right now.’ I’m truly blessed, so that’s what that was. I’m just really thankful, very happy to be in that situation that I was in last year, got to make the best of it.”
But the ending left a bitter taste in Rozier’s mouth.
"I was hurt to the heart right after the season, just because of Game 7 that I had, and we came up short and we lost,” said Rozier. "I wouldn’t have been as mad if I had a bad game and we won, still going to the Finals.
"We lost, it probably took me … it was a week at least, I didn’t want to be on my phone. I was sick. But then after that, I went to Miami, I relaxed a little bit, you got to really like see everything that happened. Got to set in for me like, 'Damn, I was Scary Terry. I had the Garden turnt up.' You had everybody throwing up my sign when I shoot my 3s, we got T-shirts waving around, it was dope. It was dope.”
But there was unfinished business. Those Game 7 misses still eat at him. But he can’t linger on it. A new adventure awaits for IDGAF Terry.
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