Last year at this time, he was a Celtic starter. He was the subject of T-shirts and an innocent first-round verbal slip of the tongue (or was it innocent?) that turned Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe into “Drew” Bledsoe.
The real Drew Bledsoe even made an appearance at the Garden to support Terry Rozier and play along.
This year it’s back to friends and family for Rozier’s guest list. With Kyrie Irving’s return from knee surgery that abbreviated his 2017-18 season, Rozier went back to the pine and slipped from prominence, both on the court and in the public conscious.
After playing 33.2 minutes a game and averaging 14.7 points in the regular season when he took for Irving as a starter, Rozier went to 22.7 minutes and 9.0 points a game this regular season — and that’s even including the 14 games he got to start. (He scored 13.1 in those games, 8.1 in the 65 others.)
And after going 36.6 minutes per game in the 2018 postseason (16.5 points), he played just 18 minutes in the series opener against the Pacers, even with him being expected to have a bit bigger role with Marcus Smart out.
Rozier’s coach understands it’s been a rather trying time for a young player seeking to carve his niche in the NBA.
“I think one of the things with our whole team was that this thing was going to be really challenging from the get-go just simply because, you know, you have to take on a little bit of a lesser role,” Brad Stevens said. “Even our guys that play a lot, start the game — everybody’s got to give a little.
“Terry probably had to give a little bit more versus what he did last year at the end of the season than before. And I think you always, no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what job you have, you probably are likely to compare your current situation to your best situation — in your own eyes. And I think that’s a challenge to adjust to, and I think Terry’s handled it really well. It hasn’t been easy. He’s a tremendous worker. He’s a tremendous competitor. That being said, he’s also been a tremendous teammate, and I think that most guys would reiterate (that) he’s an honest guy, but most guys would tell you, like, he’s done everything he can to make this thing work. And we appreciate him for it.”
Stevens has said he would like to get Rozier a few more minutes together with Irving to allow the latter to play off the ball more, but it’s clear that how well Rozier can adapt to whatever role he’s asked to fill will help determine how far the Celts can go in this postseason.