Terry Rozier downplays cryptic tweets, says his focus is on winning

Terry Rozier downplays cryptic tweets, says his focus is on winning

BOSTON — "Is this the warmup question right here?”

Terry Rozier knew why he had been requested by the media on Tuesday afternoon and, when the first question generically asked about the team’s impromptu offday practice, he playfully chided reporters for not getting to the heart of the matter.

Rozier drew attention on social media Tuesday morning when he tweeted, “Let’s do us ALL a favor.” Celtics fans, already on edge given the team’s rocky start, immediately started speculating whether it was some sort of message about Rozier’s status with the team.

Rozier tried to stem speculation by tweeting, “I forgot y’all get happy feet … I wasn’t talking about me … chill with the bad talk."

And he further tried to calm the masses after practice Tuesday.

"Y’all know I got love for y’all. I’ve got love for the fans. But it wasn’t nothing on that,” said Rozier. "We’re gonna look to come out and play better [Wednesday] and make sure everybody’s happy.”

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    Rozier suggested that players are well aware that fans are not happy with Boston’s 9-8 start to the new season, including letting a winnable game slip away in Charlotte on Monday night. And he appreciates the passion.

    “Coming to a place like this, this type of organization with the die-hard fans, that’s what it is. That’s what you’ve got to accept,” said Rozier. “But at the end of the day, we know the fans are going to ride for us. They’ve got our backs. And you’ve got some people that think they're [general managers], but that’s fine.”

    Rozier set off a similar social media firestorm when he posted “Here today, gone tomorrow” on Snapchat last summer. 

    "See that’s another example. I think I said, ‘Here today, gone tomorrow,’” Rozier said with a smile. "Yeah, so it’s all love. It’s all love.”

    Rozier said he’s confident the Celtics will get on track soon and that, while he doesn’t like losing — even reciting Marcus Smart’s recent line about hating losing more than loving winning — he believes things are going to turn for Boston.

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    Rozier gave the Celtics a second-quarter jolt Monday and finished with 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting. But Charlotte’s Kemba Walker got hot in the fourth quarter and no one could slow him down (including Rozier).

    But Rozier isn’t ready to panic.

    "We’ve still got so many more games left to figure it out. I feel like we’re still connecting and getting better playing with each other,” said Rozier. "We lost [Monday] night but there were still a lot of positives we took away from it. A lot of things were flowing. We just came up short, to a guy that’s very hot that’s been playing great this season. 

    "I think we’ll get it together. Like Coach [Brad Stevens] said, we’re due for a lot of makes that’s coming up, so that’s gonna happen.”

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    Not even Celtics' best defenders could stop the Hornets' Kemba Walker

    Not even Celtics' best defenders could stop the Hornets' Kemba Walker

    The Celtics struggled to find any answer for Hornets guard Kemba Walker during Monday's loss in Charlotte and not even the team's best defenders could do much to slow him down.

    Walker scored 22 of his game-high 43 points during the 31 possessions he was defended by Marcus Smart, connecting on 7-of-12 shots against him. Walker added six points during the four possessions that Al Horford was deemed the primary defender, making both shots against Horford and drawing a shooting foul.

    The full breakdown of Celtics defenders vs. Walker via the NBA’s tracking data: 

    Irving defended Walker on 27 possessions, the second-highest number on the team behind Smart, and limited him to a modest seven points on 3-of-4 shooting. Still, the Hornets generated 32 total points of offense during those possessions, suggesting the attention on Walker helped generate other opportunities for Charlotte.

    Gordon Hayward had maybe the most success against Walker (0-for-2 shooting, 3 possessions) while Jaylen Brown, limited to 19 minutes, was deemed the primary defender on just one possession. 

    Walker scored 21 of his points in the fourth quarter, routinely creating havoc off high pick-and-rolls. Every time a defender got pinned, even briefly, Walker made the Celtics pay with a quick 3-pointer, particularly when bigs were slow to help.

    While the Celtics showered Walker with praise after Monday’s game, Irving did wonder if Boston should have considered trying to trap Walker and get the ball out of his hands instead of leaning on 1-on-1 coverage.

    “He did exactly what we talked about [at Monday's] morning [shootaround]. He came off every pick-and-roll, put our bigs in some tough positions to guard him on those high pick-and-rolls,” Irving told reporters in Charlotte. "He did exactly what we thought he was going to do.

    “Usually you just go to a double team or something simple to get that ball out of his hands but we felt pretty comfortable with Marcus and Al guarding him 1-on-1. You just live with the results of that.”

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    Stevens not interested in talk of lineup change; he just wants to win

    Stevens not interested in talk of lineup change; he just wants to win

    Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his team continues to consider all possible rotation tweaks given Boston’s uneven play but, asked about a possible change to the starting five, Stevens emphatically noted that he doesn’t get overly focused on which five players he deploys first.

    "I don’t think much about starting. I know that all everybody wants to ask is about the first five minutes of the game and, in Boston, it shouldn’t matter who starts, it shouldn’t matter who plays, it shouldn’t matter who finishes, it matters if you win. That’s it,” Stevens told reporters at the team’s morning shootaround in Charlotte on Monday morning. 

    "You always consider that as part of the rotation but starting is like so far secondary to everything else that matters.”

    Stevens sent a message to his players during Saturday’s lifeless loss to the Utah Jazz by deploying a quartet of end-of-the-bench players alongside Kyrie Irving early in the fourth quarter.

    After the game, Stevens questioned the toughness of his team and Irving hinted the Celtics needs more discipline from their youngest players.

    It reignited conversation about whether the Celtics needed to make a change to their starting five, particularly with the combination of Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford now owning a net rating of minus-3.9 over a team-high 137 minutes together, all while posting a 7-6 record in the games they’ve started together.

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    Despite an underwhelming 91.1 offensive rating, the Celtics starting five has had moments of exquisite basketball and has typically played strong defense overall. Stevens has been reluctant to make changes when the entire team could benefit from simply putting in more effort more often.

    “We’re always contemplating [changes],” said Stevens. "I think we’ve learned more about which group plays well together when we’re playing well. The issue, again, is that it hasn’t been consistent enough to really have a huge conclusion. But I do feel like we have a better feel for who plays best together. Some of the things we want to emphasize, I think we can emphasize by small tweaks.”

    Added Stevens: "You have to find your best version of yourself. It’s a long year . . . I think that you just keep working until you find that. Sometimes it comes quicker than others, sometimes it’s a process. And the goal is to be playing your very best at the end. Now, the problem is you have to build consistency with your performance. And I think that’s what we’re trying to accomplish right now.”

    Stevens likely realizes that the Irving/Brown/Hayward/Tatum/Horford is his most skilled and versatile lineup, a combination that might ultimately dictate the overall success of the team this season. A more accommodating schedule ahead, Stevens seems to be content with letting his player work through some early season struggles — both in figuring out roles and individual performance.

    The Celtics have proven themselves capable of playing at a high level having already posted victories over fellow East rivals like Philadelphia, Toronto, and Milwaukee. But the team has struggled to routinely put together 48 minutes of effort and it’s led to some hard-to-watch stretches of hoops.

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    Fair or not, third-year swingman Jaylen Brown finds himself maybe most in the crosshairs as he works through an early season offensive slump. Brown is shooting 36.2 percent overall and 27.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc. ESPN’s Real Plus Minus ranks him a staggering 417th out of 430 total players, and a minus-3.25 offensive mark slots him 426th overall (ahead of only Tyson Chandler, Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, and Kyle Anderson).

    What’s more, the Celtics have struggled whenever Brown and Hayward share the floor this season. Hayward’s offensive rating with Brown on the court is 92.5 and spikes to 109.4 when Brown is on the bench. In both instances, the defensive rating stays firm at 97. Hayward has a net rating of minus-4.6 with Brown, and plus-12.4 when he’s on the bench.

    It’s similar results for Brown when Hayward is on the bench. His own offensive rating spikes to 107.3 with a net rating of plus-4.8.

    It could just be an early season anomaly but it’s led some to wonder if the Celtics would be better putting a more defensive-minded presence onto the first unit, someone like last year’s starter Aron Baynes, or maybe Marcus Smart depending on matchups.

    Even if the Celtics made a change, it might only be temporary. The Celtics are unique because of their current starting 5 and should be willing to endure some bumps to have things clicking when it matters.

    And, ultimately, as Stevens suggested, Boston’s struggles do not fall on player or one lineup. The team needs more effort from everyone not named Kyrie.

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