When Terry Rozier first arrived on the scene in Charlotte, he knew the Kemba Walker comparisons were inevitable.
Walker was coming off a career season, having catapulted himself into the upper echelon of the 2019 free agent class. Rozier had been acquired in a sign-and-trade with Boston, essentially being swapped for the Charlotte Hornets' all-time scoring leader.
Rozier's vision was to create his own path and bring his flavor to the franchise. In two quick years, he's done just that and is glad he'll get the opportunity to continue to build on it after signing his four-year, $97-million contract extension.
"I really do feel like I found a home," Rozier said Wednesday. "I love the city of Charlotte. I love the organization. Great teammates, great locker room. That’s so big to me -- just great guys in the locker room. That’s being helpful. When I first accepted my deal two years ago, I didn’t really (know what to) expect. Kemba was here, so that’s not just easy parting ways with a guy like that. All-Star, superstar in this league.
"I didn’t really expect people to be super-hyped about it, but I knew by my style of play, the way I play, I was going to turn a lot of heads. I’m just fortunate to be in the position I am now and I’m just glad that the fans can appreciate all of us as a whole. And we’re looking forward to the season."
One that will feature a host of new teammates for Rozier. The Hornets traded for Mason Plumlee, drafted James Bouknight, Kai Jones, JT Thor and Scottie Lewis, and signed free agents Kelly Oubre and Ish Smith. Pair them with the returning core featuring LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward, and the Hornets think they have enough talent to vault themselves into the postseason.
Rozier seemed pleased with the team's offseason re-tooling.
"It’s going to be huge," he said. "It’s going to be huge. Ish is a guy who is a nightmare to guard night-in, night-out. He plays with the same tempo -- which is fast as hell. Nobody really wants to guard that. When Melo comes out the game, the tempo will stay up. He’s a great addition. Kelly Oubre, we got drafted the same year. I met him right before the draft. Plays above the rim, plays hard as hell. Loves the defensive assignment, wants to guard the best player. So that’s going to be great. And then we got Mason Plumlee. Great passer, plays above the rim, too. Catches lobs, blocks shots. So, I think we got a lot better. Happy to have him and great additions to our team.”
Locking Rozier in for the next five seasons also means he will be forming a backcourt with Ball for the long term. The duo have developed a close-knit bond already and it should only be strengthened knowing neither is likely going anywhere any time soon.
"I think it’s going to be great," Rozier said. "I think it’s going to be real scary. I think it’s great that we’re friends off the court. I think that’s a plus for us. Real, real cool friends. That’s really like my brother. So, I think he just had to get his feet wet. He won Rookie of the Year. He had to get his feet wet last year, and now I think he’s really ready. I think he’s ready to show people what that name is about. I’m just glad to be next to him and we’re going to do our thing.”
With everything, he hopes, continuing to gravitate in the very same trajectory as it has for the better portion of these two years in Charlotte.
“It’s just going in an up position," Rozier said. "When I first got here, first season, things shut down because of COVID, but we were trending in the right way. Last year, we were right there, had our foot in the door. Things got taken away from us due to injury. I think we’re heading up and we’re heading in the right direction and I’m just glad to be a part of this. And I’m just glad things have been trending in a positive way ever since I got here. Just want to keep grinding and keep working at that.”