INDIANAPOLIS -- Terry Rozier has always been a team-first player. His talent is up there with some of the best guards in the NBA. However, he's never had a chance to lead a team. The one time he got his chance was the 2018 playoffs, when he started 19 games and averaged over 16 points, five assists and five rebounds while leading the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Fast-forward to this season. On a lottery-bound Charlotte Hornets team, he still has to share the point guard duties with second-year standout Devonte' Graham.
Tuesday night in Indiana, Graham did not play, putting Rozier in a position to shift to the point. Ultimately, he struggled to find his shot, going 2-for-13 in a lopsided loss to the Pacers.
"It felt good to just be on the ball a lot more than usual," Rozier said afterward. "We didn't get the results we wanted tonight."
After signing a multi-year contract worth over $50 million with the Hornets last summer, he was the obvious replacement to Kemba Walker, who had departed for the Celtics. The simultaneous moves seemed to fit like a puzzle piece. However, Graham suddenly came on strong to start the season, earning a lion's share of ball-handing duties.
"It's tough," Rozier admitted. "At the same time, I don't want to be that guy that will be complaining. I don't want to be a cancer to a team. That's not me. I'm about the team first."
"I like Charlotte a lot as a city," he added. "It's real chill. I like chill environments. Obviously coming here to play I had thoughts of being a point guard. Things change and that's just part of basketball. You've got to be able to adjust. That's what I've been doing, I'm just trying to make the best of it. I don't want to try and live for the excuses."
On top of the point guard position not being solely his, the team is nowhere near as talented as his Celtics teams. In the last two seasons, he has gone deep into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Hornets have a minimal chance to make any noise in the postseason and are likely to watch the playoffs at home.
"It's definitely a different feel not coming out on top most nights," he said. "You just try to stay in it. You try to value practice as much as you can because it's going to put you where you need to be on game night."
Even though he is 25-years-old, he is a veteran on this team. Experience playing on a prior elite team gives him the ability to be a strong leader in the locker room in addition to the 17.6 points and 4.0 assists he puts up per game.
"[I] Just try to lead by example," he said. "I can talk until I can't talk any more but you've just got to lead by example. Sometimes it's better for guys to see it and hear it."
To him, good habits spawn from being a gym rat.
"There ain't no right way to be a pro," he said. "As long as you're being a professional getting those extra reps in, getting extra shots up, learning the game watching film and stuff like that, that's the most important thing."
Ultimately, the fifth-year player from Louisville is doing and saying all the right things. During the 2018 playoffs, he showed that there is an All-Star caliber player capable of breaking out. At some point, his team-first effort will indeed allow him to shine.