The Knicks and Suns made offers to point guard Terry Rozier in free agency, and the former Celtic confirms to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report that he seriously considered the possibility of signing with those teams before ultimately choosing the Hornets. According to Rozier, the involvement of Hornets owner Michael Jordan played a major part in his decision.
“Mike was overseas,” Rozier said. “And I can just picture him probably having a cigar in his mouth and the words he told Mitch [Kupchak], the GM, was like: ‘Get him over here. Do what you need to do to get him over here.’
“I’d be a fool if I was to go anywhere else or turn down that. I look at it as just a team, organization believing in me. Knowing that I want to prove myself in this league and giving me that chance is bigger than anything and [their willingness] to pay me a right amount of money, it was just big and the guy that was behind all that was Michael Jordan. It’s still surreal to me.”
As Abrams explains, a day before free agency opened in June, Rozier was expecting to be a Knick. That account lines up with a June 30 report, which suggested that the Knicks would turn to Rozier, Julius Randle, and Bobby Portis if they missed out on top-tier stars — New York eventually landed Randle and Portis, but not Rozier.
According to Abrams, the Suns offered a “bigger, better” contract than the one the Knicks put on the table, and Rozier was seriously considering accepting Phoenix’s deal even after the Hornets emerged as a viable possibility as part of a sign-and-trade that sent Kemba Walker to Boston. However, Jordan helped seal the deal for Charlotte.
Rozier’s free agency decision likely had a ripple effect on multiple teams and players. Elfrid Payton, who received an $8MM guaranteed salary for 2019/20 from the Knicks, may not have landed that sort of contract if the team had secured Rozier.
Meanwhile, after missing out on Rozier, the Suns shifted their focus to signing Ricky Rubio, who was strongly rumored to be a top target for the Pacers in advance of free agency. If Phoenix had instead landed Rozier, Rubio may have ended up in Indiana, and it’s not clear if the Pacers still would have acquired Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee.
The three-year, $56.7MM contract that Rozier received from the Hornets has been widely panned by NBA observers, but the veteran point guard tells Abrams that he has heard the criticism and looks forward to proving it wrong.
“I’d be lying if I told you there’s no pressure,” Rozier said. “But pressure’s part of the game. Pressure is something that I deal with on a daily basis, but I’m always finding ways to get past it. That’s not easy going in, replacing a guard like Kemba. He’s pretty damn good and the franchise’s leading scorer, like that’s crazy. But it’s something I’ve always wanted. I always live by if the opportunity come knocking, you gotta be ready to answer, and this is the opportunity for me, so I was born ready for this, and I’m not looking back.”