BOSTON - This is a big week for Terry Rozier. His coach, Brad Stevens, said the Celtics top draft pick needed to make a splash in his first games at home as a Celtic. Rozier came through, leading the Celtics with 16 points, along with six assists and four steals.
For a player who left fans scratching their heads on draft night with his selection, Rozier is quickly endearing himself with the ferocity and hustle that hit Bostonians square in the aortic valve.
"Terry is very high-energy," Amir Johnson said after the game. "He pushes the ball up the floor. He's athletic. Sometimes he just has to recognize time and score where he doesn't have to go full-speed, and slow down and get into the offense.
"But I love his energy and I love his work ethic. If he keeps playing hard he's going to make it in this league."
Whether he was slamming the floor in anger over a missed circus layup, or turning every Nets full court press into a fast break opportunity, Rozier is earning his coach's praise.
"[Rozier was] pretty good for being out a week," Stevens said. "I mean, how many minutes did Terry play? 20? I wanted to play him about 28. It's what I wrote down. So that's good. I thought Terry could've gone another 20 minutes."
It may be early to play all 48, but Rozier looks determined to burst through that rookie wall when it approaches on the horizon.
"I like to push, that's just me," Rozier said. "I know the veterans used to say at the first couple of practices like, ‘Slow down, slow down.' That was just me, I can't help it. Whether the other team scored or missed, I want to push it. And I try to get layups; I feel like that can be our best offense before we try to set up a play."
Rozier pushed hard the rim hard in transition Monday night, with two notable misses. Early on was a flying tomahawk slam that failed after a mid-air foul. The second came after an and-one circus layup barely fell off the rim. Rozier could be seen on the ground furious he didn't finish the play.
"I don't care if I was playing with 4th graders, if I'm missing shots I'm going to get kinda mad at myself," Rozier told CLNS. "Not too mad with taking me out of my game, but -- I don't know, I get through it and work on it."
As he walked away from the media scrum after his first official game in the Garden, he paused and looked back.
"I don't care if they were 4th graders."
AMIR JOHNSON IS EVERYWHERE
Amir Johnson only played 22 minutes, but he was the most dominant player on the floor Monday night. He scored 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 22 minutes, hitting his only three-point attempt. Expect to see even more shots from way out there.
"I feel comfortable. I definitely can shoot the shot," Johnson said. "I worked on it numerous summers. I definitely feel comfortable. When I'm set, I can hit the shot.
But if I have to rush, I'm able to swing the ball and set a screen and roll."
Johnson did not enter the league as a deep shooter, but added that crucial skill as he entered his prime and the league trended toward shooting bigs.
"It's all about the follow through and touch with me. I'm working on other things, like catch and shoot, to shoot faster. And now I'm more comfortable with taking my time and lining that three-point ball up and shooting it.
"It's numerous things that I'm working on to be better. I stay within my means and line up and shoot it."
The word on Johnson's gooseneck follow-through hasn't appeared to have made its way around the league yet, based on how open he has looked so far this preseason.
"If they don't know the scouting report yet, I hope they know it. That's just going to help me out a little bit more, where they give me time to shoot that three if they don't close out."
Johnson is proving to be a patient and intelligent screen-and-roll big, while being able to post up and shoot from beyond the arc.
His role in the defense is in need of refinement and practice, but he is showing his versatility and savvy will prove crucial whether he starts or is the first big off the bench.
Will Amir Johnson be the starting center?
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