SALT LAKE CITY – Like most of the Boston Celtics players, Terry Rozier would have loved to have played with Kevin Durant next season.
While some would look at Durant’s decision to sign with Golden State as disappointing, Rozier and the rest of his Celtics teammates have no plans to dwell on what they can’t control.
“He had to make a decision,” said Rozier who will be among the Celtics playing tonight in the team’s summer league opener against Philadelphia. “If that’s what he feels is the right fit for him, then good luck to him next season.
Rozier added, “We have to move on. We have to get ready for next year as well. We have to make sure we find our fits to make the playoffs and stuff like that. We have to move on and just keep building.”
For Boston to even be in the hunt for Durant says a lot about where this organization is currently when it comes to attracting the best talent. The Celtics had already come to terms on a four-year, $113 million contract with Al Horford who left the Atlanta Hawks after nine seasons. Adding Durant would have made Boston a title contender instantly.
But even without him, there still lies plenty of promise in a roster that’s still relatively young but has shown growth beyond their years when it comes to collectively coming together to win during the regular season.
This will be Brad Steven’s fourth year as the Celtics head coach, with more wins coming each season he’s been on the job. That trend is expected to continue next season, with or without Durant.
“It shows us and everybody else we’re right there,” Rozier said. “We got our foot right there in the door. We just … we’re trying to find pieces of the puzzle now. It’s a lot of fun doing it. We’re still testing the waters. It’s going to be an exciting season.”
Especially with the addition of former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford, a player R.J. Hunter is familiar with having played at Georgia State, which is in Atlanta.
“That’s huge for us,” Hunter said. “He’s not only a physical presence; he’s real smart. He’s established. I’ve heard great reviews about how he is as a person. Boston is huge on character, so I know that’s big for us.”
Hunter said he met Horford a couple of times, adding that his father Ron Hunter and Horford are good friends. While his father wasn’t in on the recruiting meetings for Horford, it appears as though his father may have played a part in Horford’s decision to come to Boston.
“He did contact my dad,” said Hunter who added, “he’s a real good guy.”
And a good player, which is part of the optimism Boston has about where it stands going forward, even if they fell short in landing Durant.
Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry has heard the buzz all summer long about the Celtics and their pursuit of the top free agents. But his focus through it all has been on the players he is charged with helping develop this summer through summer league play.
“This is my focus,” Shrewsberry said. “These are opportunities for us as coaches to grow, to get better. Really, my focus has been this team, this group, how I can make them better.”
But he does recognize the fact that the Celtics, a relatively young team by NBA standards, has been able to position themselves to be contenders for the top players.
“In all phases you trust in Danny (Ainge, president of basketball operations), you trust in Brad (Stevens), (co-owners) Wyc (Grousbeck), Pags (Steve Pagliuca), everything they’re doing is to make the Celtics the best organization it can be. So you do whatever you can to jump on that train and keep it moving in the right direction, follow their lead. We want to be the best. They’re working like that, you do everything you can do so you’re not slowing it down.”
A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN