Rozier Looks to Step In, Fill Smart's Void

WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart estimated Tuesday afternoon that he’s about one week away from returning from a left ankle sprain that he suffered during Boston’s preseason finale last Wednesday.

By that approximation, the Celtics guard will miss at least the first three games of the regular season, including Wednesday night’s regular season opener against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden.

Coach Brad Stevens says he’ll be looking for some of Boston’s youngsters to step in and fill the void during that time.

“We’re going to have some young guys that are going to be put out there and have to perform under real lights, so it will be a great experience for them,” Stevens said after Tuesday afternoon’s practice. “It will be a great opportunity for somebody else to step up in his place.”

Second-year point guard Terry Rozier is seemingly first in line to eat up the bulk of Smart’s minutes. The speedy sophomore is certainly hoping that becomes a reality, as he’s itching for a significant role increase this season.

“One of our main keys off the bench is not playing, so it’s a bigger opportunity for me to step up,” said Rozier. “I just gotta be ready tomorrow for when my number’s called; be ready to take care of business and help my team be in a good position to win.”

Rozier put Boston in position for success time and time again during the preseason. He averaged 20.1 points per 36 minutes during seven games, which was the third-best mark on the team behind All-Stars Isaiah Thomas (25.0 points per 36) and Al Horford (21.9 points per 36). The guard also shot impressive clips from the field (54.0 percent) and from 3-point range (60.0 percent), and only turned the ball over four times during 120 minutes of play.

Coming off a rookie season during which he shot just 27.4 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3, Rozier says that his upward trend is a result of him beginning to “think like a pro.”

“Whether it’s watching film, whether it’s getting in more hours of shooting, having a routine, eating right… I’m just becoming more of a pro,” he explained.

Thomas, who Rozier will likely be backing up, has noticed the young guard’s efforts and believes Rozier deserves a significant role out of the gate this season.

“Terry has shown he’s ready for the opportunity,” said Thomas. “He worked very hard this summer and I’m proud of him because I’ve been in that position before. He’s been waiting for the opportunity, so I think he’ll be ready.”

Smart Staying Engaged

Another reason why Rozier should be ready to step in tomorrow is that Smart has been in his ear, barking advice from the sideline all week long.

Rozier nodded toward an empty chair by the baseline Tuesday afternoon and laughed, “He’s been sitting right there in that seat and he just hasn’t shut up.

“But it’s good,” added the 22-year-old guard. “You need a guy like that that’s going to talk to you. He’s a guy that says things defensively that it’s like he’s been in the league for 10 years because he really knows his stuff. That’s something that you just want to take in and get better at.”

Smart, who is shockingly only 11 days older than Rozier, claims that his vocal leadership is one of the greatest intangibles he has to offer.

“One of the perks about me (is) I’m able to coach guys off the court even if I’m not playing,” said the third-year guard. “That’s one thing that my coaches and my teammates love about me and it’s just something unique about myself – that I’m able to stay engaged even when I’m not on the floor.”

It’s vital that Smart remains engaged during the first few games of the regular season, because many inexperienced youngsters, such as Rozier, rookie Jaylen Brown and others, will be relying on his vocal leadership and advice.

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