Amplified Leadership Roles Begin Now for Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham

by Sam Perley

One year ago, Terry Rozier was penciled in as the Charlotte Hornets’ starting point guard and Devonte’ Graham was his backup looking to make a mark in the league following a relatively quiet rookie season.

Fast forward 12 months and the two are now both in the starting backcourt and coming off a campaign in which they each ranked in the top-3 in the NBA in individual scoring increase (Graham – 1st; Rozier – 3rd). Naturally, the two have emerged as leaders based on their play alone and now, that responsibility has been heightened with a reduced veteran presence.

“It’s a lot different than last year, obviously,” said Rozier on Sept. 23. “It’s a job I’m ready for. I know I have to be more vocal and I have to take on the leadership role. I had a lot of time to figure out how I can become a better leader, how I can get to guys and talk to them the way they’ll like it. I’m trying to build those habits now and I’m glad to be in this position.”

Graham added, “My leadership role has definitely increased. Guys are looking at me for things that they weren’t last year around training camp time. The coaching staff is looking for more out of me. Vocally, I have to be better and make sure guys are working. That starts with me. I have to be in the gym and the weight room and then it’ll trickle down to the other guys.”

“They’ve got to be a major part of our leadership team,” stated Head Coach James Borrego. “We’re trusting and believing in those guys and with that comes responsibility. They’ve got to own this team and part of owning your team is speaking up more, being the bad guy at times, being the cheerleader at times. They have to have a pulse on this team and I think they’re getting more and more comfortable in these shoes.”

Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both no longer on the team and Bismack Biyombo is an impending free agent. Currently, the average age of the Hornets’ roster is 25.1 years of age, which includes players on expiring contracts. For comparison, that would have ranked just outside the five youngest rosters in the NBA at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Experience wise, Hornets players have totaled 51 combined NBA seasons across 13 players with Nic Batum (12) and Biyombo (9) accounting for close to half of them. That’s about 3.9 seasons per player and then 2.7 without the two veterans factored in. Boston had the least experienced roster on Opening Night last season (2.73 seasons), while Indiana (3.53) rounded out the top-5.

To what extent these numbers fluctuate following the NBA Draft and free agency is to be determined, although the core’s age range will likely stay roughly the same. Leadership on this team will largely be a collective effort of sorts, but for now, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the starting backcourt as the workout bubble continues to unfold.

“It’s a challenge during this period,” Borrego added. “This has been six months of being away, Zooming, texting. That’s why this period is good for us. At the most, it’s only two weeks. We might not play again until January, February – who knows? During that period, it’s important that these two guys stay focused, stay connected, keep pushing this group forward. So far, they’ve done that in this bubble.”

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