Terry Rozier said he feels he is “more needed” in the first round of the NBA playoffs than he has been throughout this season after Marcus Smart’s injury.
“I think I’m going to be playing some more minutes,” Rozier said during his appearance on the Rich Eisen Show Thursday. “I feel like my energy off the bench is going to be the most important for me and making winning plays, championship plays to help us [win the first round],”
Smart was ruled out for at least the postseason’s first two rounds after he was diagnosed with a partial tear to his left oblique abdominal muscle Wednesday. His injury leaves the Celtics without one of their most frequent starters – only Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Kyrie Irving started more games during the regular season.
For Rozier, though, the injury comes as an opportunity to play a more valuable role in the Celtics’ first-round series against the Indiana Pacers. Rozier told Eisen that this season had been a “year-long process” for the entire team when trying to establish roles across the roster and find a balance.
“I would say personally it’s been tough because the opportunities for myself – I wouldn’t say [they were] taken away, but it was just a lot different than last year,” Rozier said. “We got a lot of guys, so y’know, just trying to find a balance of knowing when I’m going to be out there for that amount of time and trying to be efficient and things like that.”
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The Celtics finished the regular season 49-33 and ultimately earned the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed, but for some, more was desired out of a team that almost reached the NBA Finals in 2018 without Irving or Gordon Hayward in the playoffs. Poor stretches of play and rumors of locker room discord followed the Celtics for much of the season.
Rozier told Eisen he views himself as a positive force of energy among his teammates, trying to make it easier for the Celtics to win games. He emphasized that communication goes a long way to helping the Celtics win, even with all the talent on Brad Stevens’s roster. Rozier clarified that he is still “trying to learn and get better” at communicating in his fourth NBA season.
When pressed on who truly leads 2018-19’s Celtics, Rozier did not hesitate. He described Horford as “our backbone,” and said Irving knows what it takes to win a championship.
“He’s been down this road, this is not his first rodeo,” Rozier said of Irving, who publicly criticized his younger teammates at times this season and made waves when he called LeBron James to apologize for “being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips” during their time together with the Cavaliers.
When Eisen asked Rozier if Irving has dealt him “tough love,” Rozier said he and the starting point guard have a “great relationship.”
“Obviously, [Kyrie]’s going to step in and say what he feels regarding helping me and I think he’s always been great at that,” Rozier said. “We’ve never had bad blood or got into it, and he’s always been a great help to me, a guy I look up to [on a] basketball level. Personally, I wouldn’t say it’s ‘tough love’ or however you want to put it, but he don’t bite his tongue. He’s there to help.”
Eisen asked Rozier if Scary Terry would make a return during the 2019 NBA Playoffs, in reference to the nickname and popular line of T-shirts that popularized Rozier during his emergence last season.
Easter Unlimited Inc., which owns the intellectual property rights to the “Ghost Face Mask” popularized by the 996 film Screa, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Rozier for the T-shirts’ use of the image in November 2018.
“Well, Scary Terry gonna be there, but I don’t know if the shirt gonna be there,” Rozier said. “At least I’ll put it that way.”