BOSTON (CBS) — Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will have his hands full this season trying to find minutes for everyone on Boston’s talented roster.
His starting five is essentially set, with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning to join youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum along with veteran Al Horford. Managing their minutes will be no easy task, but where Stevens will have to perform his best juggling act is with the Boston bench.
You’ve probably heard by now, but Boston’s group of reserves is going by “Bench With Attitude” for the upcoming season. That attitude is exactly what you want at the moment, with everyone buying in and willing to sacrifice their own personal numbers as long as the team wins games. The bench players will still get PT, and when they do, they’re going to make life miserable for whoever else is on the floor. As long as that’s their attitude, things should go just fine for Stevens and company. It may be a delicate balancing act at times, but Stevens is the best man for the job.
That doesn’t mean he won’t be playing favorites. As the preseason hits its midway point, Stevens has made it clear there is one player he wants to see plenty of off the pine: Terry Rozier.
“I just have to figure out how to get him as many minutes as possible. He’s tremendous,” Stevens said of his backup guard. “Not only in the way he plays when you guys all see him in the games, but just the way he goes about his everyday business. He works as hard as anybody on our roster.”
“When I come in, I’m trying to change the game. Trying to impact the game, trying to lift us all up, trying to fly around and be everywhere,” said Rozier. “That’s my goal, and I think that’s all of our goals coming off the bench; to pick up where the first string left off.”
Rozier certainly changed the game last postseason when the Celtics called upon him to fill in for the injured Irving. Replacing a player like Kyrie is an impossible task, but Rozier filled in admirably. He carried the Boston offense at times, and when his shot wasn’t falling, he lifted them with his charismatic spark. Whether it was his spat with Eric Bledsoe, tussling with Joel Embiid or speaking of the benefits of a “butt whopping” after the Cavaliers blew out the Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, Rozier made an impact. He struggled to close out his postseason though, and the Cavaliers were targeting him on the defensive end as LeBron James carried them to a series win in seven games. But that was part of the learning process for the third-year guard, and the fill-in duties for Irving provided valuable lessons for Rozier on the game’s biggest stage.
The last real basketball we saw out of Rozier was his dreadful 2-for-14 night in Game 7. But he’s been solid in Boston’s two preseason games so far, averaging 12 points off 10-for-20 shooting while stuffing the stat sheet with eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. In his 39 minutes on the floor, he’s looked even more confident than he did last postseason, and Stevens believes Rozier will continue to change the game whenever he steps on the courth.
“It’s immediate energy; it’s noticeable when he’s in the game. That’s just one of those things that’s going to be important for our team moving forward,” said Stevens. “To his credit, all he’s done is come in and work and played. That’s all he usually does.”
With a bench of Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes, the Boston bench is one of the deepest in the league (not just the deepest in attitude, either). And given Rozier’s offensive abilities, he has an outside shot at some Sixth Man consideration when the dust settles on the regular season. While he would certainly love an award that recognizes his individual contributions to the team, Rozier is focused on something much, much bigger.
“I want to win as a whole. I want the big trophy,” he said. “If I get any individual goal as far as Sixth Man and all that, it’s good to have, but I think we can be very special, we can win the whole thing.”
That’s exactly the kind of attitude you want coming from your bench.