Multiple league sources tell NBC Sports Boston that the Knicks, a team with plenty of roster holes to fill this offseason, have interest in at least two other Celtics players besides Irving — Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier — who like Irving, will be free agents this summer.
New York’s interest in Rozier has been steady, only to have picked up during Rozier’s strong showing in the playoffs last year and continued through the February trade deadline, which is when Boston made the decision to keep Rozier and the rest of the team intact.
Rozier — who said he isn’t sure he’ll be back in Boston and has made it clear what he wants is to be a starter, wherever he ends up — would only be a target for New York if Irving didn’t come for whatever reason (Irving decides to stay in Boston, or the Knicks trade for Anthony Davis and don’t have room, etc.)
Morris, who had a strong playoffs averaging 13.7 points per game and shooting 45 percent from three, would bring a physicality, a veteran presence, and could plug right into the Knicks rotation, whatever it looks like.
The Knicks are not the only teams eying these guys, a lot of teams in need of a point guard have their eye on Rozier.
What will be wild come July is that after the big dominos fall — Durant, Irving, Kawhi Leonard — there are a lot of interesting second, third, and fourth tier free agents out there that can help teams. As much as 40 percent of the league will be free agents and there will be real value in that mix for smart GMs who know what kind of players they need and who can fill those roles.
Terry Rozier on Celtics’ keeping roster intact: ‘Nah, I might have to go’
In interviews on ESPN today, Rozier discussed his struggle to fit with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Rozier also cast aspersions on Brad Stevens, noting the coach often pitted starters against backups during practice then mixed and matched between the groups during games rather than using separate units.
Would Rozier want to return to Boston with a similar roster?
“Nah, I might have to go,” Rozier said. “I put up with a lot this year. I said what I said after the season. I think we all know I’m not trying to step into that again.”
“Just obviously in the shadow of some guys,” Rozier said. “The ball was in either Kyrie or Gordon Hayward’s hands most of the time. So, I feel like either Terry Rozier is just in the corner or on the bench. One of those two.”
“I’m out there for a little bit of half of my minutes, so I’m really not being my position,” Rozier said of sharing the backcourt with Irving. “I’m not being Terry Rozier, because I have to adjust to how Kyrie plays. And then when Kyrie comes out, Gordon Hayward comes in and I feel like his usage is super high, so a lot of plays get called for him.”
“Them treating Gordon and Kyrie, I wouldn’t say different than everybody else, but I feel like they just treated them like they were just on that level where there were no adjustments that could be made because they are who they are,” Rozier said. “We never figured it out after that.”
Unfortunately for Rozier, he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer. Boston will still dictate where he plays next season.
The issue might take care of itself. If Irving leaves, the Celtics might welcome back Rozier as their starting point guard – a situation he probably wouldn’t mind. If Irving stays, Boston probably won’t pay to keep Rozier as a backup.
However, his restricted status and down season could cool his market. There’s certainly a possibility Rozier is cheap enough for the Celtics to keep as a backup, maybe on his qualifying offer.
Rozier could also resist playing with Hayward, with or without Irving. When Rozier and Hayward played together this year, Hayward controlled the ball much more, both finishing plays and distributing. Stevens clearly trusts Hayward as a playmaker. Maybe Rozier would accept that balancing act in the starting lineup, but it’s not a given.
This all leaves potential for Rozier’s restricted free agency to get nasty as he tries to get himself where he wants to be.
Heck, maybe it has already reached that level. Rozier sure sounds like he’s burning bridges (though, to switch infrastructure metaphors, fences can be mended quickly if Irving leaves).
Rozier’s criticism of Stevens’ practice-vs.-game lineups seems unfair. Perhaps, Stevens just wanted to maximize the time his top players practiced together. After all, those players are often on the court together when it counts. That’d leave the reserves on the other side in practice. The system might have been designed to help starters, not all players. It’d be on the backups to make do. Don’t like it, work your way into being a starter.
“I’ll be the first to say that, as far as any other year that I’ve been a head coach, it’s certainly been the most trying. I think I did a bad job,” said Stevens. “Like, at the end of the day, as a coach, if your team doesn’t find its best fit together that’s on you. So I’ll do a lot of deep dives into how I can be better.”
“Bad job” might be too strong. But Stevens didn’t do a good-enough job.
Stevens has proven adept at positioning lesser players to succeed. Given the most-talented roster he’s ever had, he didn’t push the right buttons.
To be fair, this was a difficult situation. Kyrie Irving can be petulant, and his impending free agency only added drama. The Celtics need Gordon Hayward heavily contributing to reach their potential, but he often struggled through his first season back from injury. Young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier are hungry for bigger roles.
But these are the types of issues coaches must manage on good team.
Stevens raising Boston’s floor. He must improve his ability to raise the ceiling.
On April 28, 2018, the Boston Celtics eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks from the playoffs in a Game 7 where Al Horford and Terry Rozier each stepped up with 26 points. It was a relatively easy Celtics win at home.
Out of that game and the ensuing playoff run, Boston became a team on the rise. They were the preseason favorites in the East after getting Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injury, adding them to a roster that had shown great chemistry in the postseason. On the other side, Milwaukee had questions — starting with could they keep Giannis Antetokounmpo happy — and opted for a major change, letting go of coach Jason Kidd and bringing in Mike Budenholzer, plus adding some shooting to the roster. Milwaukee entered this season still feeling at least a year, maybe more, away.
Wednesday night May 8, 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks easily eliminated the Boston Celtics from the playoffs in five games, sealing the deal at home in a 116-91 blowout.
The Bucks — who grew into the best regular season team in the NBA out of last year’s lessons — advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, hosting either the Toronto Raptors or Philadelphia 76ers (Toronto leads that series 3-2).
Boston went down without a fight. That was true in Game 5 but also for most of the series. When faced with adversity the Celtics became a team of individuals that lacked genuine effort or trust for teammates. — the polar opposite of the team that made the conference finals a season ago.
This loss sends the Celtics into a summer where it is the team facing big questions about chemistry and fit, not to mention the future of free agent to be Kyrie Irving. (Al Horford also has a player option and there are other major roster decisions.) One way or another, it feels like Boston’s roster will look very different next training camp. Irving, who at a ticket holder event early in the season said he would be back if the Celtics fans would have him, now is going to at least look at his options this summer, according to the buzz around the NBA. (Talk about him leaving Boston has grown louder as these playoffs have worn on.)
That is just the start of the roster questions about a Celtics’ team that all season lacked cohesion and trust, and in the playoffs that came back to embarrass them.
This series was a total role reversal. Milwaukee eliminated Boston in game 5 the way the Celtics eliminated them a year ago — defense and good team play.
The Bucks held the Celtics to an offensive rating of 86 (well below a point per possession) while shooting 25 percent in the first half and 31.2 percent for the game, although that was as much about Boston’s desire as it was anything Milwaukee did. The Bucks used their length to contest shots in the paint — the Bucks shot 6-of-19 in the paint for the first half — and still get into passing lanes.
Part of the problem with the Celtics’ offense started with Irving and his desire to play hero ball, which played into the hands of the Bucks’ defense. Irving shot 7-of-22 in Game 4 and said of that “I should have shot 30.” Well, in the first half he shot 5-of-16, had zero assists, and his Celtics were down by 11. Irving finished the game 6-of-21 from the floor for 15 points.
On the other end of the court, the Bucks had a balanced attack. Antetokounmpo led the way with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.
However, Antetokounmpo had only had 6 points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half, the Bucks took charge of the game because his teammates stepped up. Khris Middleton had 19 points and 8 rebounds for the game, Eric Bledsoe had 18 points, and George Hill had another impressive night off the bench with 16 points.
The Bucks are going to need that kind of balance in the next round, but they looked like a team that has grown a lot in the last year — their time is now.
Boston players can watch those games from their hotel rooms in Cancun, while they ponder their future.
Playoff Edition Three Things to Know: Down 0-2, it’s hard to see Houston’s path past Warriors
The NBA playoffs are in full swing and there can be a lot to unpack in a series of intense games, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Down 0-2, it’s hard to see Houston’s path past Warriors. And that’s not because of Harden’s eye. At some point, the Houston Rockets need to win a game in Oracle Arena to take the series from Golden State.
However, it feels like they had their chances and missed. The Warriors came into Game 1 on short rest, with bad ankles, turned the ball over 20 times, and still won. Game 2 is where the Rockets started to find their flow from distance, hitting 17 threes and shooting 42.5 percent from deep. On the season, the Rockets were 26-7 when making at least 17 threes (and 2-0 when they made exactly 17 threes). Houston racked up a 114.7 offensive rating in Game 2 that was right at their elite regular-season average.
Yet the Rockets head home for Game 3 down 0-2. The Warriors won Game 2 115-109 and seemed in control most of the way.
Houston has to win 4-of-5 in this series and the Warriors have yet to have that monster, can’t-miss-a-shot breakout game we all know is coming at some point.
Well, Warriors not named Kevin Durant have not had those games. KD has been the best player on the floor in this series — through two games he has matched James Harden’s 64 point total, plus KD has provided key defense and rebounds.
Steve Kerr was not messing around this series, he went all in from the opening tip — he started the Hamptons’ five lineup — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Durant, and Draymond Green — in both games. And leaned on that group. In Game 2 that lineup played just shy of half the game (23.7 minutes) and was a +12.
Iguodala has had a bounce in his step at age 35 and played well, with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and some good defense in Game 2. The Warriors also were dominant on the offensive glass in Game 2, with 18 offensive rebounds, creating second chances on 37 percent of missed shots. Houston cannot allow that many extra shots and chances for Golden State.
Despite that, the Rockets hung around in this one, and there are things that can improve at home. Chris Paul has been good — 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and some good defense in Game 2 — and has matched Curry’s output. However, the Rockets need last season’s CP3. Austin Rivers had an impressive night off the bench. Eric Gordon has been knocking down shots and can get hot.
If those guys can take a step forward alongside a healthy Harden — more on that in item No. 2 — and the Rockets can win Game 3 at home. They need to win Game 3 at home. Or this series is really over.
One other note on Game 2: Notice we have not mentioned the officiating. Both teams were on their best behavior, there was very little chirping at the officiating crew about calls. Clearly, that came as a directive from both coaches and through team leaders — focus on the game — plus the quick-trigger, no-nonsense crew of Scott Foster being there had teams thinking twice about complaining. It was a nice change of pace from Game 1.
2) James Harden gets hit in the eye and bled from it. It bothered him in Game 2, and he doesn’t know what comes next. The Rockets need the full James Harden experience in Game 3 to keep their season hopes alive.
But he needs to be able to see the basket clearly for that to happen. Will he be able to? After the game he was squinting and bothered by the camera lights in the interview room.
“It hurt,” Harden said of the inadvertent swipe by Draymond Green that injured his left eye. “I could barely see. Just try to go out there and do what I can to help my teammates. It’s pretty blurry right now.
“Can’t see nothing. Barely can see.”
Will that be better by Game 3 on Saturday? Hopefully. Time off should help. But nobody really knows.
Harden still had 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting after the injury, he got to the rim and made threes, but his eye was clearly bothering him. To win in this series the Rockets need Harden to be the best player on the floor, to dominate, and his eye injury is not going to help with that.
Green, to his credit, checked in on Harden both on the court at the time of the injury and after the game.
There is one other injury to track — Stephen Curry dislocated the middle finger on his left (non-shooting) hand in the first quarter.
The training staff popped it back in, taped up his finger and Curry was back out there. Still, it’s worth watching to see if that impacts Curry’s ball handling or flow in Game 3.
3) Milwaukee makes its adjustments, dominates third quarter, evens series at 1-1. Brad Stevens, the ball is in your court.
That’s because Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer made his adjustments for Game 2. For one, he started Nikola Mirotic in place of Sterling Brown. However, the bigger change was going to a switching-heavy defense, something Milwaukee did little of in Game 1 (and not a bunch during the season).
“I mean they’ve got the guys who can do that,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said from the podium after the game. “They did it last year a lot and so that’s an easy thing for them to adjust to. And I thought they did a really good job of it. Basically, Giannis and smaller were doing that.”
It worked. The game was close until Milwaukee went on a 24-2 run in the third quarter. Boston scored just two points in the final seven minutes of the third, and those misses (and a few turnovers) fueled chances for the Bucks to get out and run, and we all know Giannis Antetokounmpo is unstoppable in transition.
The Bucks won 123-102, dominating the second half and tying the series at 1-1 heading back to Boston.
Antetokounmpo looked like an MVP to be with 29 points and 10 rebounds, but he got help. Khris Middleton was 7-of-10 from three. Eric Bledsoe was a force on both ends of the court.