The Celtics have yet to hit their stride so far in 2018/19, and while their depth figures to be a strength over the course of the season, it may also be a source of frustration when things aren’t going well for players who would like more minutes. Asked after Monday’s loss to Orlando about embracing a fluid role, backup point guard Terry Rozier admitted that it’s “not the easiest,” as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.
“Me being a competitor and me being who I am, I wake up every day and want to be the best I can be, want to win and everything,” said Rozier. “It’s tough when I don’t get the minutes that I may want. [Monday] night, for example, I didn’t play that many minutes.”
Beyond simply being a competitor and wanting to win, Rozier has another important reason to prefer a regular, prominent role this season. After having failed to reach an extension agreement with the Celtics, he’ll be a restricted free agent in 2019, so his play on the court in the coming months will go a long way toward determining what his next contract looks like. Still, he made it clear that he’s not unhappy and he understands the challenge facing head coach Brad Stevens.
“Coach does not have the easiest job. He has the toughest job out of all of us,” Rozier said of Stevens. “And I can respect that. I control what I control. I still come in every day and I bust my butt because I know it may be different on Thursday. I just have to stay ready. And it’s tough because, like I said, I’m competitive. But [Stevens] has a tough job.”
As Forsberg notes, Monday was likely the exception for Rozier and the Celtics rather than the rule. After seeing at least 23 minutes of action in each of the team’s first three games, Rozier played only 15 on Monday — Stevens used 12 different players in an effort to find the best lineup combination for a C’s team that came out flat. Those 15 minutes were the fewest Rozier had played in a game since last November, and that’s unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.
Still, a report prior to this month’s rookie scale extension deadline suggested that Rozier would likely seek the “minutes and money” of a starter on his next contract after averaging 36.6 minutes per contest in the postseason for the Celtics last season. As long as Kyrie Irving remains healthy, Rozier won’t be playing starter’s minutes in Boston this season, and as long as Irving and the C’s remain on track for a long-term deal next summer, it’s not clear if the club will be willing to offer Rozier a lucrative multiyear contract too.
If and when the Celtics start piling up wins, Rozier will certainly find it easier to accept his fluid role, but this is still a situation worth keeping an eye on over the course of the season as his free agency nears.