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Terry Rozier’s quiet NBA journey has him on the precipice of becoming a star

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While the Boston Celtics may be in a rough position limping into the playoffs decimated with injuries, third year guard Terry Rozier has a prime opportunity.

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

June 25th, 2015.

This was the night that would change the life of 21-year old Terry Rozier forever, going from a star guard for the University of Louisville Cardinals, to a rookie on one of the NBA’s most iconic and prestigious franchises-the Boston Celtics. The announcement that he was the first selection of the draft by Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge was not met with fanfare and excitement that the new rookie was probably looking for. Instead, most Celtics fans had their eyes on Georgia State’s sharpshooter R.J. Hunter, but we’ll get in to that a little bit later.

Terry’s decision to leave school early wasn’t as easy to make as it was for players that are the Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, or Lonzo Ball caliber of player, where it wasn’t any secret that they were just making a short 9-month stop at their respective schools (and for Simmons, it wasn’t even that long). He knew that if he waited another year, he would more than likely be drafted higher, and thus being able to secure even more money. However, Terry had to take a look at his family’s situation and make a tough, but mature, decision.

“Terry looks at home and sees his mom working two jobs, and she’s going 16, 17 hours a day,” Pitino told reporters Monday. “And he says, ‘OK, maybe I wouldn’t be drafted as high as I would be if I waited one more year, but I’d rather sacrifice that for my mom not having to work two jobs.’”

So Terry had to make a decision that isn’t an uncommon one that a lot of these guys have to make: Do I stay in school and play for free, or do I make the jump now to help out my family’s situation?

He chose the latter.

And honestly, who could blame him? Sure, it would have been great to have the guard who lead the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game to come back as a junior, but Terry had to make a difficult decision about what would be best for himself and his family. Especially since Terry got paid big-time.

Terry’s pre-draft projections had him a bit all over the place. After a “head-turning” showing at both the LeBron James Skills Academy and Adidas Nations camps in the summer of 2014, Rozier leaped on to the 2015 NBA draft radar and was being projected as an early first-rounder if he had a strong season for the Cardinals. However, despite these early draft projections, over time his draft stock began to slip and slip away. Draft sites such as ESPN, SI, and DraftExpress had the sophomore guard out of the first round altogether. It seemed that most indications showed that Rozier would likely be selected somewhere in the mid-to-late range of the first round, and SB Nation’s mock draft had him pegged at 27th overall.

So now, we are back to June 25th, 2015.

With draft projections ranging all over the place, Terry did not receive an invite to attend the NBA draft to hear his name get called and walk across the stage to greet NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Instead, he wound up watching the draft at home around his friends and family to wait and see where his road to the NBA may start. To his surprise, he would not have to wait too long on finding that out.

With the 16th pick, he was selected by the Boston Celtics.

There’s always excitement when you find out that you are one of the few people on the planet that is talented enough to get drafted in the NBA by any team. But getting drafted by one of the premiere franchises in the sport with their first pick? Especially when you weren’t expecting them to give you a call? Well, sometimes you just have to go jump in a pool to celebrate.

This is what it's like when you get picked in the NBA draft ...

A post shared by jeffgreer (@jeffgreer) on

For all of the joy, excitement, and elation that Rozier was feeling after being selected, Celtics fans weren’t exactly sharing those same feelings. Quite the opposite, in fact.

These tweets would wind up not aging all too well, as Celtics fans would wind up knowing who Terry Rozier is in due time.

Here is what our friends over at Celtics Blog had to say about the drafting of Terry:

The Celtics were unable to trade up into the lottery. At the 16th pick, they have selected Terry Rozier.

I’m shocked.

Rozier is another point guard that isn’t a great shooter. Now we wait and see what this means for Marcus Smart.

The Celtics passed on guys like Bobby Portis, RJ Hunter, and Kevon Looney.

My initial reaction is that I hate this pick. Rozier most likely would have been available lower in the draft - maybe even at the 28th pick. I don’t understand why we have to double down on yet another point guard.

Maybe this means more moves are afoot. Maybe this means the Celtics aren’t as high on Smart as they would like us to believe.

I don’t really know what to think at this point. I’m disappointed that we didn’t trade up and I’m not impressed with the pick.

Feel free to prove me wrong Terry Rozier. I’m just not seeing it right now.

Despite the lashing out and less-than-warm-welcoming to Boston, Terry did not speak out against his new employer or show any signs of discontent. He just put his head down and got to work.

In his first year in the league, Terry didn’t exactly jump out of the gate and impress a lot of people. In fact, he really didn’t get much of a chance his rookie season with the Celtics. He was stuck behind a logjam of other guards in Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, James Young, and fellow rookie R.J. Hunter (who is now on a two-way contract with the Houston Rockets). He finished the season average 8 minutes per game, 1.8 points per game, 1.6 rebounds per game, and 0.9 assists per game while playing in only 39 games.

He was able to get a nice boost in action as a second-year player, seeing his stats take a nice little bump. He played in 74 games while averaging 17.1 minutes per game. With his increase in minutes and seeing action in more games, Rozier was able to increase his season averages to 5.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 1.8 APG. Despite the lack of playing time that he no doubt wanted, Rozier never voiced any complaints or has shown any discontent with his situation with the organization.

It wasn’t until this past year (his third with the team) that Terry was finally able to get a good opportunity and take advantage of it. Gone were guys who were previously blocking him on the depth chart in Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, James Young, and R.J. Hunter. With recurring, and eventually season-ending, injuries to Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart, Rozier was able to play in 80 games. He would actually make his first start as a professional, and subsequently 15 more after that. All this would lead to 11.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG while playing 25.9 minutes per night. Even after Irving went down for the season, the Celtics went on a 6-game winning streak with Rozier helping lead the way, proving that he can be the floor general that Boston was hoping he could be when drafting him three years prior. With his newfound role, he was able to provide exciting plays like the below.

Now, with the eve of the NBA playoffs upon us, Boston finds itself in a precarious predicament. They’ve locked up the second seed in the East, but the aforementioned season-ending injuries to Irving and Smart are further compounded by other season-ending injuries to All-Star caliber forward Gordon Hayward and role-player Daniel Theis.

Look for Rozier to turn Boston’s detriment into his advantage.

A fanbase who didn’t know “who the hell” Terry Rozier was will now look to him to help lead an injury-ridden team to the postseason in an attempt to salvage what were some fairly high pre-season expectations for the franchise. Sure, he won’t do it entirely alone. There’s still the veteran presence of Al Horford. Shane Larkin will be able to help manage some of the ball-handling responsibilities. And there are two young emerging stars on the wing in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But it’ll primarily fall on Rozier to help facilitate and lead the way in the backcourt. The moment isn’t lost on him in the least bit, as he’s reached out to Kyrie Irving for advice and guidance on this new role that has been thrust upon him.

Per The Athletic.

“I’ve gotta do a better job of just being assertive and having everybody in their spots and putting guys in their position,” Rozier said. “And that’s just a job I’m willing to take on, and start off this weekend, and for us to go out there and fight and win games. With Ky being out, we’re missing that leadership role. And I have to be the one that fills in for that spot.”

So what does the future hold for Terry in Boston? There’s a bit less clarity in that. Short of an NBA championship, nothing really guarantees that Rozier stays in Boston. Boston is in the finishing steps of rebuilding their franchise after the Big 3 era, and are putting the finishing touches on a roster that they believe will lead them to the next era of dominance. For a franchise that believes it is just a trade or two away from being able to really compete in the East, it’s lead to a lot of rumors of Rozier being part of a trade package with other franchises looking to deal. Does Terry get traded away? Or does he prove himself with his new opportunity and usurp Marcus Smart’s role as the key bench player and leader of the second unit? There’s been a lot of debate about that over the last year, and the guys over at Celtics Blog both make arguments for keeping Rozier and for selling high on him.

Amid all of the uncertainties and speculations surrounding his future, there’s really only one thing the soft-spoken kid from Ohio can really do.

Keep his head down and go to work.