One of the Celtics’ breakout stars from last season is now stuck behind Kyrie Irving, and the situation appears to be coming to a head

  • Terry Rozier had a breakout campaign for the Boston Celtics in last year’s playoffs while Kyrie Irving was out, but is now behind Irving on the depth chart and not playing well.
  • According to one report, Rozier is unhappy with his playing time, while other reports indicate that teams are monitoring the situation in hopes of trading for Rozier.
  • Rozier is a free agent at the end of the season, so the Celtics may have to move him to get something in return instead of risking losing him for nothing in the offseason.

Terry Rozier’s breakout performance was one of the reasons the Boston Celtics made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals and came within a few minutes of an NBA Finals appearance last season.

Starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving, Rozier, then a third-year guard, averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, captaining the Celtics offence with his energy and explosive play.

Of course, Rozier, like everyone else, knew it would be short-lived. This season, the Celtics welcomed back Irving and Gordon Hayward, the All-Star forward who missed all but five minutes of last season with an ankle injury. With a fully healthy team, Rozier was relegated to the bench, helping the Celtics become one of the deepest teams in the league, but leaving him with a more limited role behind Irving.

Read more: How the Celtics pulled off one of the greatest rebuilds ever to become the team that should terrify the NBA

Through 10 games, the Celtics are 6-4 and have had some mild struggles incorporating all of the new pieces. This is to be expected – the Celtics got red-hot in the postseason last year with players like Rozier, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford shouldering more of a load. Now they all have to re-acclimate to having two All-Star players back on the court who soak up a good chunk of the offence.

It will take time.

But Rozier is one of the players whose playing time and usage has taken the biggest hit. He’s averaging 22 minutes per game, scoring 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while shooting just 35% from the field and 39% from three. The Celtics have played him and Irving together at times to get both players on the floor, but the pairing hasn’t been their most effective, getting outscored by 8 points in 69 minutes and 4.8 points per 100 possessions.

Now, according to multiple reports, it appears the situation is coming to a head. Publicly, Rozier has been accepting of his role, but according to Bill Simmons of The Ringer, Rozier is unhappy with his playing time. The Celtics may have to trade Rozier, according to Simmons, but the entire league is waiting on a trade, making a move all the more difficult.

Likewise, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that at least seven teams are monitoring the situation and interested in trading for Rozier.

Charania reported that Celtics GM Danny Ainge is content with the team and not eager to move Rozier.

Ainge was on the “Toucher and Rich” show on Thursday and said Rozier hasn’t expressed disappointment with his playing time and that other teams have not called and offered trades for Rozier.

The problem for the Celtics, even if Rozier is content to stay in his role, is that the clock is ticking. Rozier is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix and The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor separately reported that Rozier would be seeking a deal in free agency that pays him $US16-$US20 million per year.

Rozier is a valuable member of the Celtics; it’s difficult to find a better backup point guard around the league. But it’s unclear if the Celtics would be willing to pay starter’s money for their backup guard, a player whose natural role will be playing spot minutes behind Irving.

Of course, that in itself is not a guarantee. Irving can become a free agent at the end of the season and plans to re-sign with the Celtics. Irving said at a public Celtics event that he would be with the Celtics, and Charania reported that Irving told the Celtics front office that he plans to re-sign.

But anything can happen in the NBA. What if the Celtics take an unexpected downturn and come up well short of their Finals aspirations? What if Irving gets hurt again? Would re-signing a 28-year-old point guard with an extensive injury history to a max contract give the Celtics pause?

These are all hypotheticals, of course, but they show that just moving a (reportedly) unhappy Rozier is not such a simple decision.

The Celtics will likely only get better as the season goes on. They’re currently the top defence in the NBA, and their top offensive weapons will get a better sense of how to play together. But even as on-court chemistry improves, every player will have to sacrifice playing time, shots, and overall role. The Irving-Rozier balance will be a delicate one that won’t go away. How the Celtics decide to resolve it may be an ongoing plot point throughout the season.