Terry Rozier was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 16th pick in the 2015 NBA draft. His expectations as an NBA player were relatively low and his rookie season saw him appear in only 39 games. It was a trial run for him. A bad one, but one that was filled with trying to grasp an understanding of the NBA game. Rozier played only two seasons at the University of Louisville and his sophomore season was the only real film anyone had on him. This was Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ third season with Boston and the first one that saw him lead his team to an above .500 record. It was the first season in which the Celtics felt they were really beginning to put things together, despite the fact that they were supposed to be undergoing a strenuous rebuild process.
Celtics General Manager and President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, selected Rozier just outside of the lottery with the idea that they were getting a player they would have to work with, but one that could pay off in a humungous fashion. That payoff peaked it’s head out in the 2018 playoffs in the form of a completely different version of Rozier. A Rozier that just two seasons ago was in-and-out of the Celtics’ then G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. Ainge has reportedly refused to involve Rozier in every trade scenario that has crossed his desk, which brought understandable criticism. However, now we know why.
Rozier’s uprising has been beautiful, controversial, and with an added dash of petty. He’s been one of the Celtics most important and efficient players during a playoff run where they desperately need him. With Kyrie Irving missing the entire postseason, it has been up to Rozier to step up and deliver or else a Celtics season that began with so much optimism would be flushed down the drain with no one to blame except for the dreaded injury bug. What Rozier did to the Milwaukee Bucks – especially when playing at home – and what he did to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals – a team that is clearly more talented than they are – is baffling. It’s been completely unexpected. Terry Rozier has morphed into Scary Terry, the man who instills fear into the minds of his opponents with subtle petty tactics and an all-out attacking style of play.
Rozier’s third season in the NBA has easily been his best one yet. Averaging 11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game during the regular season, he’s improved his numbers in nearly every statistical category. Most notably, Rozier was a 22.2 percent three-point shooter his rookie season, improving to a more respectable 31.8 percent in year two, and a dangerous 38.1 percent – on five attempts per game – this past season. In eight playoff games this season, Rozier is shooting an unconscious 43.8 percent from deep on EIGHT attempts per game. He’s hit countless big shots and doesn’t seem even remotely phased by the limelight.
Forced into a situation that most young players wouldn’t be ready for, Rozier has done more than thrive, he’s dominated. He dominates the spotlight off the court and on the court. He referred to Bucks’ guard Eric Bledsoe as “Drew Bledsoe” before the Bucks-Celtics round one matchup even began and the feud between the two was born then and there. The most impressive aspect of the feud is the fact that Rozier outplayed Bledsoe. Not only did Rozier outplay him, there were games where he utterly embarrassed the eight-year veteran Bledsoe. It was almost like watching a younger, better version of Bledsoe completely run him out the gym. It was the pointing Spider-Man meme personified but if one of the Spider-Mans started to beat the hell out of the other one.
When Bledsoe declared that he didn’t “even know who the f**k that is” when talking about Rozier, that was all we needed to know about the current state of their rivalry. Rozier was clearly in Bledsoe’s head and the slights they sent towards one another during the games that followed backed that sentiment up. When Rozier showed up to Game 1 against the Sixers wearing a New England Patriots number 11 jersey, the same one worn by Drew Bledsoe during his run with the famous NFL franchise, he’d unofficially won. Following it up with a career-high 29-point, eight rebound, six assist performance in a huge playoff win was just the icing on the cake. Oh, and he shot 7-9 from three in that game. By the end of the Bucks series, Eric Bledsoe – and the entire country – knew exactly who Terry Rozier was. This series against the Sixers is his official coming out party.
During home playoff games, Rozier has been a wrecking ball swinging from building to building, tearing down everything in his path. He put up 23 points in both Game 1 and 2 against the Bucks, 16 in Game 5, 26 in the decisive Game 7, and a simply unreal 29 against the Sixers in Game 1 and then he dropped 20 in game two. His uncanny ability to pester every ball handler without losing a step is a testament to his dedication and will to be great. He’s not supposed to be in this situation, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to kick everyone’s ass and enjoy every minute of it.
The Boston Celtics don’t have the talent on paper to matchup with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and the rest of the Sixers team, but they didn’t against Milwaukee either (and with Jaylen Brown missing Game 1, the difference in talent was even more drastic). They’ve won through a superior defense, excellent coaching, and with players who simply seem to want it more than their opponents. Terry Rozier has been the energizer the Celtics needed these playoffs and he’s paying off more than everyone except Danny Ainge expected.