BOSTON — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart knows what Terry Rozier is going through.
Last season around this time, Smart was in somewhat contentious talks with the Celtics regarding a rookie extension — hoping to coax long-term security out of the only team he had ever played for. Nothing was agreed upon, as is often the case with Celtics players looking for rookie extensions, and Smart went into the offseason a restricted free agent.
Rozier now finds himself in a similar situation: The Oct. 15 deadline for his contract extension looms, one day before the start of the season, and Rozier has been in discussions with the Celtics about what he hopes to receive.
Is balancing contract discussions and preparing for a season difficult?
“It’s tough, but Terry is a great player,” Smart said. “Really, all he has to do is just go out there and let his play do the talking for him and not really focus on everything, because once you start focusing on it, it takes you out of what the real goal is, and that’s to help this team win a banner. When you start doing that, focusing on things and distractions like that, it kind of puts you out of whack. So my advice to Terry is just go out there and play. Don’t think about anything else but playing, and everything else will fall into place.”
Smart, who spoke to reporters at the Celtics’ Shamrock Foundation gala, said he has discussed the talks with Rozier.
“I’ve definitely had those conversations,” Smart said. “Like I told him, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not. But like I said, just go out there and play because whatever is going to happen. If it’s supposed to happen, it’s going to happen. Just let your play do the talking for you.”
Rozier, who arrived at the gala wearing an eye-catching outfit, seemed prepared for the questions but unconcerned by the situation.
“It’s a huge step, but I’ve just been trying to focus so much,” Rozier said. “We’ve got our first game coming up. That’s big for us. We haven’t been playing good in the preseason, so we’ve been trying to focus on us and I’ve been trying to take the pressure off the extension thing. So I’m focused on the team. If it’s right for me to sign an extension, I will. If it’s not, it still can happen in the summer. So, you never know. But like I said, I’m focused on the team. We’ve got our first game coming up but we haven’t been playing pretty good basketball.”
Unlike Smart, Rozier said the tightrope between preparation and negotiations hasn’t been hard for him to walk.
“It’s not difficult because my teammates and my coaches, they just do a great job of just keeping everything normal and I’m around a great group of people,” Rozier said. “So it’s easy for me to balance that, if you get what I’m saying. I just go every day and just try to take care of business and control what I can control and let everything else take care of itself.”
The Celtics would clearly love to keep Rozier, although they would have to convince him to sign on to a back-up role if Irving commits long-term. Whether or not they are able to keep him, Brad Stevens said the team has made it clear how they feel about Rozier as a player.
“I think it’s very clear how all of us — players, coaches and front office, people in Boston, everybody you run into — how they feel about Terry,” Stevens said. “And it’d be great if we could have him here for a long, long, time. But I don’t get into that with contract negotiations and discussions. But kind of like we talked with Marcus last summer, he knew very directly how I feel about it. And I think that he’s a really good player, and I hope he’s here for a long time.”