Now, he’s really unloading.
In interviews on ESPN today, Rozier discussed his struggle to fit with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Rozier also cast aspersions on Brad Stevens, noting the coach often pitted starters against backups during practice then mixed and matched between the groups during games rather than using separate units.
Would Rozier want to return to Boston with a similar roster?
Rozier on ESPN, as transcribed by Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:
“Nah, I might have to go,” Rozier said. “I put up with a lot this year. I said what I said after the season. I think we all know I’m not trying to step into that again.”
“Just obviously in the shadow of some guys,” Rozier said. “The ball was in either Kyrie or Gordon Hayward’s hands most of the time. So, I feel like either Terry Rozier is just in the corner or on the bench. One of those two.”
“I’m out there for a little bit of half of my minutes, so I’m really not being my position,” Rozier said of sharing the backcourt with Irving. “I’m not being Terry Rozier, because I have to adjust to how Kyrie plays. And then when Kyrie comes out, Gordon Hayward comes in and I feel like his usage is super high, so a lot of plays get called for him.”
“Them treating Gordon and Kyrie, I wouldn’t say different than everybody else, but I feel like they just treated them like they were just on that level where there were no adjustments that could be made because they are who they are,” Rozier said. “We never figured it out after that.”
Unfortunately for Rozier, he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer. Boston will still dictate where he plays next season.
The issue might take care of itself. If Irving leaves, the Celtics might welcome back Rozier as their starting point guard – a situation he probably wouldn’t mind. If Irving stays, Boston probably won’t pay to keep Rozier as a backup.
However, his restricted status and down season could cool his market. There’s certainly a possibility Rozier is cheap enough for the Celtics to keep as a backup, maybe on his qualifying offer.
Rozier could also resist playing with Hayward, with or without Irving. When Rozier and Hayward played together this year, Hayward controlled the ball much more, both finishing plays and distributing. Stevens clearly trusts Hayward as a playmaker. Maybe Rozier would accept that balancing act in the starting lineup, but it’s not a given.
This all leaves potential for Rozier’s restricted free agency to get nasty as he tries to get himself where he wants to be.
Heck, maybe it has already reached that level. Rozier sure sounds like he’s burning bridges (though, to switch infrastructure metaphors, fences can be mended quickly if Irving leaves).
Rozier’s criticism of Stevens’ practice-vs.-game lineups seems unfair. Perhaps, Stevens just wanted to maximize the time his top players practiced together. After all, those players are often on the court together when it counts. That’d leave the reserves on the other side in practice. The system might have been designed to help starters, not all players. It’d be on the backups to make do. Don’t like it, work your way into being a starter.
Which it seems Rozier is trying to do.