When a team with as much talent as this year’s Boston Celtics bows out of the playoffs in the second round, observers wonder what went wrong and — whether it’s fair or not — begin assigning blame.
With this year’s Celtics, a lot of the blame was assigned to Kyrie Irving. That’s what happens when you’re the best player on a team that falls well short of expectations. In the aftermath of Boston bowing out in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks, guard Marcus Smart came to Irving’s defense.
Another Boston guard, Terry Rozier, made the rounds on ESPN on Tuesday and said it was a “variety of things” that contributed to the disappointing year. But at the same time, Rozier, a breakout performer in last year’s postseason while Irving was sidelined, made it clear that he would prefer a change of scenery over another season as part of the same roster.
“I might have to go,” Rozier said on First Take. “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.”
Rozier: ‘Difficult’ to adjust to Kyrie’s style
Rozier, who was relegated to a backup role behind Irving all year, didn’t sugarcoat his feelings after last week’s Game 5 loss in Milwaukee, telling Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill that he sacrificed “the most” of anybody on the team and that things “weren’t fair” for him.
“I don't give a f--- what nobody say, I sacrificed the most out of anybody. I'm a top point guard in this league. I feel like it's a fresh start, whether I'm here or whether I'm gone,” Rozier said.
During his time on First Take, Rozier was asked whether the team’s poor chemistry stemmed from Irving and Gordon Hayward, or whether he and guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown needed to do a better job assimilating.
“I feel like it’s a little bit of both,” Rozier said. “And I feel like that, along with the coaches, them treating Gordon and Kyrie — I wouldn’t say different than everybody else, but I feel like they just treat them like they were on that level that there were no adjustments that could be made because they are who they are. And we never figured it out. We never figured it out.”
— First Take (@FirstTake) May 14, 2019
In another ESPN interview, Rozier said it was “very difficult” adapting to Irving’s style of play.
“He’s a great guy, great leader. You just have to adjust to his style,” Rozier said on Get Up. “Whatever Kyrie wants done, he’s going to show it. That’s what he wants done. You have to adjust to his style of play and how he goes about every game and every day.”
Rozier said he realized in the “first five games” of the season that it was going to be tough to blend all of that talent together, specifically with Irving and Hayward returning from injury. As the season progressed, Rozier said what went on in practice often did not translate to games.
“We would come in the game and it would be a different game plan than what we kind of expected and went through in practice,” Rozier said. "We had the first five and then we had the second five [in practice]. And when we go out there, I feel like a lot of guys would be mixed up.
“What we talked about in practice is not what we went through in the game. It was like, all right, we're going to keep Kyrie out there and put the other guys out there with him, and we're going to figure it out."
What’s next for Rozier?
While Irving will be an unrestricted free agent, Rozier is entering restricted free agency. Irving’s mindset is anybody’s guess, but Rozier has made it pretty clear that he feels like he doesn’t mesh on a team with Irving as its lead guard.
“I’m looking forward to just playing ball. I don’t care where I go. Obviously, the Celtics is the only organization I know. I love it there,” Rozier said. “I expect for me to get my chance, whether it’s with the Celtics or it’s anywhere else. I feel like I can be myself and play my game wherever I go.”
Rozier, a 2015 first-round pick, made just over $3 million this year. An offer sheet far exceeding that figure is sure to come his way from another team. Whether Boston decides to match it is anybody’s guess. The free-agency decision of Irving will undoubtedly impact Rozier’s future with the Celtics.
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