Terry Rozier had a story to tell Tuesday when he appeared on two ESPN programs to discuss the Celtics’ season and his future. It was one of frustration.
After the 2017-18 season culminated in Rozier playing a starting point guard role on a Celtics team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, Rozier said in separate interviews on ESPN’s Get Up! and First Take that he and the other stars of that postseason approached 2018-19 with that same goal: get back to the final rounds of the playoffs.
To those on the outside looking in, they appeared a lock for the 2019 NBA Finals. To the Celtics, according to Rozier, it was apparent early on that the season would not be so easy.
“The first five games of the season, you could just see things go downhill from the beginning,” Rozier said on First Take. “We wasn’t playing how we wanted to, we didn’t execute the game plan how we wanted to, so we had to make adjustments, we had to change the lineup, and we couldn’t get things right ever since then.”
During Rozier’s conversation with Mike Greenberg on Get Up!, he referenced multiple times that the team’s game plan at times appeared different in games than during team practices.
“We’d have the first five and then we had the second five, and then we’d go out there and I feel like a lot of guys were mixed up. It wouldn’t be the first five and the second five,” Rozier said. “What we talked about in practice is not what we went through in the game. It was like ‘we’re going to keep Kyrie out there and put the other guys with him and going to figure out.'”
On First Take with Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman, and Molly Qerim Rose, Rozier said he felt he could not maximize his talent as a secondary option to Irving or Hayward.
“I was in the shadows of some guys,” Rozier said. “The ball was either in Kyrie or Gordon Hayward’s hands most of the time, so I feel like Terry Rozier was either in the corner or on the bench.”
According to Basketball-Reference, Rozier averaged 22.7 minutes per game in 2018-19, just over three fewer minutes played per game than he recorded the season before. His playing time in the regular season and 2019 playoffs was well below the starting role he shined in during the Celtics’ 2018 playoff run when Rozier averaged over 36 minutes played each game and scored 16.5 points per game.
Rozier’s usage rate, which Basketball-Reference defines as an estimate of “the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor,” was 18.6 percent this season. Gordon Hayward’s, comparatively, was 19 percent.
Time of possession per game
Terry Rozier: 3.7 minutes
Gordon Hayward 2 minutes
Touches per game
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 14, 2019
Rozier told the First Take hosts that his frustration this season was not why the team was not successful. He said that before the season started, he remained confident he, his teammates, and Brad Stevens’s coaching staff could balance all the talent on the roster. According to Rozier, things shifted for him when Irving announced in early October 2018 that he intended on re-signing with the Celtics.
“I’ve seen the way people treated me with the attitudes and it felt like I was just thrown all the way in the back seat,” Rozier said. “I talked to Brad multiple times, I talked to guys multiple times. I just feel like… there’s just nothing nobody could do.”
At the end of his appearance on First Take, Stephen A. Smith posed Rozier a question: if the Celtics brought the exact same team and plan back in the fall, would he want to stay in Boston?
“No, I might have to go. I might have to go,” Rozier said. “I put up with a lot this year, so y’know, I said what I said after the season… I’m not trying to step into that again.”