Celtics

What will Rozier do for encore vs. Hawks?

What will Rozier do for encore vs. Hawks?

BOSTON – For years, Terry Rozier longed for an opportunity to start in the NBA.

Looking back on his 2015 draft class, the only other first-round pick that year who has played in the NBA but never started a game besides Rozier, was ex-Celtic R.J. Hunter.

All changed Wednesday night when Rozier filled in for an injured Kyrie Irving (right quadriceps) and proceeded to fill up the stat sheet,  finishing with his first triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Celtics pulled away in a 103-73 whipping of the Knicks.

Even before the breakout performance, Rozier’s confidence has always been high; high enough to where he’s always thought he was good enough to be a starter in the NBA.

“I said it and I meant it,” he said. “I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything because I got a triple-double in my first start. That’s what I truly believe in. That’s my goal, no matter where I’m at. Right now, I’m just focused on the moment whether I’m a starter or not. I play hard for my team.”

And to his credit, when the opportunity presented itself, he was more than up to the challenge.

It’s easy to overlook that, unlike most guards selected in the first round, Rozier has spent his entire NBA career playing in the shadow of an All-Star at his position.

First, it was Isaiah Thomas (now in Cleveland), and now it’s Kyrie Irving.

Having a breakout game is indeed a nice confidence booster, but the true barometer of Rozier’s growth lies in his ability to be consistent.

He’ll get an opportunity to build off of the strong against New York when the Celtics host the Atlanta Hawks (15-36) tonight as they invade the TD Garden with the worst record in the NBA.

Regardless of how good or woeful the opponent, the Celtics remain focused on who they are and what they can do to improve from one game to the next.  

And a big part of that steady growth lies in the play of Rozier, who has come off the bench to play 1,182 minutes this season, which ranks fourth in the NBA in minutes played among reserves.

Celtics veteran Al Horford liked how Rozier let the game essentially come to him.

“I just felt Terry was very assertive, taking what the defense gave him,” Horford said. “He didn’t really overthink it too much. It was good to see.”

And as good as Rozier was, he’s smart enough to know that this is still Irving’s team.

When a reporter jokingly asked Rozier if he was going to let Irving have his job back, he chuckled before adding, “He can have it back. That’s my teammate, that’s my teammate. But just know, if he’s not playing, I’m here for him. I got his back.”

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Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Those pesky Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around even before Yahoo's Chris Mannix mentioned the Celtics were "scared" of Kyrie Irving heading there next summer. They picked up steam this week with another report of The Big Apple as a destination for Irving and Jimmy Butler to join forces.

Now, ESPN's NBA Forecast Panel gives the Knicks a slight edge over the Celtics to land Irving, 46.9 percent to  43.8 percent.

Here's part of the panel's explanation on ESPN's "The Jump": 

It would take some salary-cap machinations for New York to lure Irving to play close to where he grew up in West Orange, N.J. They would likely have to risk losing Kristaps Porzingis in free agency next summer by not giving him a big-money extension this season. 

There's also a potential pursuit of Kevin Durant in free agency next summer as the Knicks - playoff-less since 2013 and title-less for 45 years - make another attempt to spend their way back to relevance. 

Irving has made it clear he's not going to cost himself millions by signing an extension with the C's this season ("Contractually, financially, it just doesn’t make any sense”) and is headed to free agency, so, with training camp more than a month away, get used to a season full of questions about his future. And expect the Knicks speculation to heat up before the four C's-Knicks games (Oct. 20 and Feb. 6 in New York and Nov. 21 and Dec. 6 in Boston). 

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Danny Ainge has got the jokes...aimed at Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge has got the jokes...aimed at Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge was busy on Twitter late last night poking a little fun at a couple of his players.

Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, wondered where the defense was in a video of "Scary" Terry Rozier playing in a pickup game with Wizards guard John Wall and other NBAers. 

A little good-natured payback for Rozier's FaceTime interruption of Ainge's drafting of Robert Williams back in June?

A few minutes before his Rozier tweet, Ainge saw a video tweeted by Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton of Jaylen Brown showing his skills on the piano at the Berkeley campus' Sproul Plaza. Brown spent a year at Cal before being drafted by Boston in 2016.

Ainge couldn't resist a jab at Brown's ball-handling skills. 

So, Celtics players, post those Twitter videos at your own risk because the boss is watching.

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