Boston Celtics rookie guard Terry Rozier used summer league to give a glimpse as to why the Celtics snagged him at No. 16 in June's draft, a spot that many armchair general mangers thought was too early for him to come off the board.
But it's a pair of nuggets that came out this week from his coaches -- both present and past -- that may offer better insight into why the Celtics were so smitten with Rozier after the draft workout process. Both Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Louisville coach Rick Pitino detailed Rozier's tireless drive when asked about why Boston fell in love with him.
Stevens had been asked about Boston's pre-draft workout process and the buzz that it was one of the toughest in the league (likely due in part to the sprint drill at the end of each session). Stevens noted that Boston's workouts are designed to gauge how hard a player is willing to work, how much they love the game, and whether they want to be in Boston. Said Stevens: "Those things are important."
Then he was asked what stood out about Rozier.
"I think the biggest thing -- and [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] had been really high on him for a long time -- so I got a chance to not only talk to him about [Rozier], but to really watch," Stevens said during an interview on SiriusXM's NBA Radio. "And we had him in for two workouts. And he came in on his second workout and he had been to 18 different workouts. He still had a burst and a desire and a drive that was not going to be thwarted by fatigue. Here’s a guy that had been all over the country, had every reason to be less than his best, but just was striving to get what he ultimately wanted and that’s to be not only an NBA player, but to be a good NBA player.
"The things that I felt like, having a chance to spend time with Terry, having a chance to see him in person, and having a chance to learn more about him is he’s the highest level of toughness, athleticism, and drive, and I think if you put those all together you’re usually going to find success more often than not.
Then there's this from the Louisville Courier-Journal during a 1-on-1 interview with Pinto when his former coach gushed about Rozier and detailed another pre-draft workout sequence that highlights Rozier's desire.
"There's a very difficult shooting drill. It's 55 shots on the move. You're exhausted when you get done," Pitino told the paper. "I think the most shots made were 43. They went out and did it. There were four guys there doing it. It's very exhausting. My [Louisville] guys, they can get through it. The [other guys] can't even breathe at the end of it.
"So now Terry said he didn't like his score. 'I want to do it again.' OK, so he does it again. The other guys jumped into it and said, 'We'll do it again.' When it was over the second time, Terry still wasn't happy with his score. The other guys were done. Terry did it two more times. Danny [Ainge] has never seen that before. So, I think that hunger and drive epitomizes what we want in a Louisville man. Somebody who just does not give up, who will not relent or fatigue. And that's Terry."
Rozier averaged 12.3 points, 3.9 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals over 27.8 minutes per game in eight appearances (including seven starts) at Boston's summer league stints in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
The 21-year-old guard is positioned to start the year as the fourth option on Boston's guard depth chart behind Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, and Avery Bradley. But he's going to get a chance to win immediate minutes in Boston's guard rotation. If these stories suggest anything, it's that he's going to fight to earn that spot -- and probably won't stop there.