Over this past winter break, I often found myself in my friend Charlie’s basement, with a bottle of Captain Morgan and a two liter of Coca-Cola in tow. My friend ACJ would usually join us for a night that featured music ranging from Madonna to Onyx blaring out of my Sonos Play 1, strong mixed drinks and NBA League Pass. What better way to enjoy brisk winter nights in Pennsylvania?
Generally, we’d rummage through NBALP anxious to find the best game on, but there were several squads that we developed a fondness for stylistically, and the Boston Celtics happened to be one of them.
As a Los Angeles Lakers supporter, this is a breach of the biggest rule we are expected to abide by as a fan of the Purple & Gold, but it’s difficult to continuously fight the appeal of Kyrie Irving playing for a Brad Stevens-coached team.
Pepper in an additional All-Star in Al-Horford and a host of other riveting talents such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, and you have a team that’s a joy to watch perform.
Rozier, who had been drafted by the Celtics in 2015, averaged career-highs in points (11.3 PPG), rebounds (4.7 RPG), assists (2.9 APG) and PER (15.1) during the Celtics’ regular season campaign. He exuded a confidence that had been absent in previous years, and always seemed to be playing well when the fellas and I tuned in.
His swagger, his bounce, his quickness and athleticism for someone of his stature, the fact that he practiced/played in Kobe’s and used Young Thug lyrics as his captions on Instagram… we adopted Rozier as our underdog and began rooting for him incessantly.
After it was announced that Irving would be shelved for the remainder of the season thanks to a bacterial infection in his knee, Rozier went from key bench cog to being thrust in a starting position, and his response to his new role led to the three of us conceiving the phrase “The price is going up,” in correspondence with Rozier’s impact on the Celtics.
In his 16 games as a starter, Rozier averaged 15.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He was a +6.6 in 537 total minutes played and he also shot 38.9% from downtown.
So what exactly does “The price is going up,” mean? Well, after looking into Rozier’s current contractual status, I discovered he’s only making $1.9 million this season and is slated to make $3M next.
Rozier, who is currently the Celtics’ second-leading playoff scorer (17.4 PPG) behind Brown (17.8 PPG), is the 11th highest paid player on the team, behind the likes of Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, and Greg Monroe. Can you say underpaid?
Isaiah Thomas had visions of a Brinks trunk pulling up to his Boston home after his MVP-caliber season with the Celtics last year, and while a money van won’t be strolling up to Rozier’s residence either, the Celtics, or some other team, might send a sedan loaded with cash in hopes of securing his services longterm. Let’s save the Brinks trucks for superstars such as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler.
Great teams always have a player or two that outperform their contract, and that’s the current case with Rozier. He’s given the Celtics a player that doesn’t cower away from the moment, can both stretch the floor and snake his way to the rim for crafty finishes, and competes on the defensive end, including getting his hands dirty on the glass.
He sauced Eric Bledsoe so badly in the first round that he had the Milwaukee Bucks point guard give an expletive-laden answer that claimed he didn’t know who the Louisville product was when asked a question about Rozier’s play.
Rozier sent Bledsoe and the Bucks home with a 26-point, nine-assist, six-rebound, 10-16 FG (5-8 3PT) outing in Game 7, which was succeeded by a 29-point, six-assist, eight-rebound performance in a 16-point Game 1 win over the Philadelphia 76ers to kick off the second round.
A dropoff with a singular talent such as Irving out of the lineup is inevitable. He’s a champion, one of the finest scorers/clutch performers in the game today and he seizes ankles for a living. It’s difficult to overcome that loss.
Still, Boston has stayed more than afloat without Irving and fellow All-Star Gordon Hayward, who has been out for the entire season after suffering a devastating ankle injury on opening night, in this postseason, as they hold a 2-0 series lead over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston has James in his first 0-2 Eastern Conference Finals hole since 2007 thanks to the collaborative efforts of their deep and dangerous roster, one that is being headed by Rozier at point guard.
In the Celtics’ 107-94 Game 2 win over the Cavaliers, Rozier erupted for an explosive third quarter, one in which he finished with 14 points on 5-8 shooting, including a monster transition tomahawk spike with James lurking, threatening to come up with one of his patented chase-down blocks.
Terry Rozier gets loose in transition for the HUGE one-handed slam! #NBAPlayoffs
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) May 16, 2018
When asked after the game about Rozier’s resilient ways, Horford heaped large amounts of praise on his team’s current starting point guard. Referring to him as “fearless.”
“Terry is fearless,” he said. “He’s always been like that. It’s just now he’s getting the opportunity to show it, and it’s a lot of fun to see him just grow continually game by game.”
In addition to his 17.4 points, Rozier is averaging 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game in the playoffs. Boston is undefeated at home this postseason, so it’s no surprise that Rozier fares best within the comfy confines of TD Garden. Now, the challenge for both the Celtics and Rozier will be successfully packing their game with them and having it travel to Quicken Loans Arena.
Boston is 1-4 on the road this postseason, with their only win coming in Game 3 against Philly when the 76ers gifted the Celtics a win by imploding down the stretch. Rozier is averaging 12.8 points, on 34% shooting, including a gross 24% from behind the arc on the road, and that’s going to suffice in this series.
Playing in Cleveland, in the Eastern Conference Finals, against a Cavaliers team that’s sure to start Game 3 with a burst of energy, will be the most pressurized setting Rozier has been fixed in during his young NBA career.
Issue an appropriate response in either Game 3 or 4, and the Celtics are up 3-1 and in prime position to complete an inevitable NBA Finals quest, despite being ravished by injuries. Falter in both contests, and you’re headed back to Beantown tied 2-2 with the Cavaliers, a dangerous game to play with King James, as he’d have a chance to clinch the series at home if Cleveland were to steal Game 5.
Whatever the result for Rozier, he’s validated himself as a legitimate contributor on a championship-contending team, and proven his talents to the entire basketball world on one of the grandest NBA stages: a Conference Finals series. Boston’s currently got a bargain, but as the homies and I like to say, the price is going up, and it’s going to start at way more than the $1M Terry Rozier makes now.