P.J. Dozier's Celtics Bloodline Runs Deep
CLEVELAND – In signing a two-way contract with the Celtics this past summer, P.J. Dozier understood that he’d have to make a sacrifice: giving up his beloved No. 35. However, it was a sacrifice that he was willing – and honored – to make.
The last player to wear those digits for the Celtics was Dozier’s second cousin, Reggie Lewis, who tragically passed away in 1993 at the age of 27, just as he was approaching the prime of a promising NBA career. Lewis’ jersey patch was later retired to the TD Garden rafters, where it permanently resides with the numbers of 21 other Celtics Legends.
Though he was born three years after Lewis’ death, Dozier has spent his life striving to follow in the footsteps of his relative. In chasing those hopes and dreams, the 22-year-old guard has landed the opportunity to play on the very court that Lewis established his lasting legacy, of which Dozier has enjoyed learning more about over the last several months.
“Just talking to multiple people that were there, in this organization, when he was here as well, hearing the great things they have to say about him is amazing,” Dozier said as he donned his No. 50 jersey for Celtics shootaround in Cleveland. “A lot of it is about the kind of guy he was more so than the player, so it’s great just hearing those compliments and knowing that that’s the guy that I kind of hung my hat on growing up, just trying to follow his path.”
Dozier’s path to this point has been a challenging one with many destinations, though he has cherished each and every step along the way.
After playing two years of college hoops at the University of South Carolina, Dozier declared for the 2017 NBA Draft. He did not get selected, though he landed a spot on the Lakers’ Summer League roster. Later that summer Dozier signed a contract with the Dallas Mavericks, who kept him on board through training camp before releasing him on Oct. 14, 2017. He wasn’t a free agent for long, however, as Oklahoma City signed him two days later to a two-way contract.
The Columbia, South Carolina native saw a total of just three minutes with the Thunder during his rookie season, but he made a great impact on their G League affiliate, the OKC Blue, for whom he averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game over 43 appearances (38 starts).
That strong play landed Dozier on the Celtics’ radar, prompting them to sign him to a two-way deal this past summer.
It’s been a similar type of year for Dozier, in terms having very little NBA action (14 minutes over five games), but it’s clear that his game has improved drastically. During 46 games (all starts) with the Red Claws this past season, he averaged 21.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 6.5 APG, all while earning All-NBA G League honors.
“I just think experience is the greatest teacher,” Dozier explained of his leap. “Just having that experience last year definitely helped me to kind of keep my mind in the right place this year.”
Now that the G League season is over, Dozier will have the opportunity to test that experience in the NBA. He will remain with the Celtics for the remainder of the regular season, and, considering Boston’s recent injury woes, he could see some decent playing time.
“He’s super reliable, can guard a bunch of different positions and makes plays off the pick-and-roll,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup against the Cavaliers. “So, we could use him in a situation with our other wings where he would be a good complementary piece with them.”
As he waits his turn, Dozier will stick to the same approach and mindset that he’s maintained since starting his professional career.
“I’ll just continue to do what I do: stay ready,” he said as he laced his sneakers up for Tuesday’s shootaround. “If I stay ready, I don’t have to get ready; I always kind of lived by that mindset. In this game, you never know when your number’s going to be called.”
Dozier hopes that his No. 50 will be called multiple times over the last eight games of the regular season, so that he can prove his worth at the NBA level, all while playing underneath the No. 35 that inspired his game.