Terry Rozier’s efficiency holds key to Hornets’ success

Despite his shooting woes in the season’s first month, the Charlotte guard appears to be rounding into form

Hornets guard Terry Rozier may be rounding into form after a tough first month of the season. (Matt Kelley / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — Now in his seventh season in the NBA, Terry Rozier has seen his career shift into a phase where it is guided by quiet-yet-determined confidence.

Nearly a month into Charlotte’s 2021-22 schedule, the Hornets guard has missed a third of his team’s 15 games due to an ankle injury and his numbers are down across the board in the 10 games he has played this season. Rozier is averaging just 15.2 points a game with a 37.8% shooting percentage and has made 28.2% of his 3-pointers.

Last season, Rozier — the No. 16 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft out of Louisville — led all Hornets scorers with a team-high 20.4 points per game while shooting 45% from the field and 38.9% from behind the arc.

But there is no panic or frustration from Rozier despite his early-season struggles, just an understanding of the ebbs and flows of a shooter at the NBA level.

“I’m not gonna make excuses. It is what it is. I’m not perfect,” Rozier said following the Hornets’ 106-102 home win over Golden State on Sunday night. “I told the guys in the timeout that I feel like everybody worries about me, if I’ll make shots. I’m human. But like I told them, you’ve got to let a scorer be a scorer. I’ll be all right, and I damn sure was.”

In the first half of that matchup, Rozier was ice cold from the field and had not scored. The case was building by the minute that Charlotte’s lineup might be more efficient without him in it.

After all, his return to the Hornets’ active roster coincided almost directly with a five-game losing streak in which Charlotte’s perimeter offense began to decline. In two of those contests, Rozier was a combined 5 for 26 from the field for five and nine points, respectively.

Midway through Sunday’s game, Rozier flipped a switch and returned to the form that made him such a scoring threat last season.

The Youngstown, Ohio, native responded to his first-half woes with 20 points, two late crucial free throws, and a jump ball win where the 6-foot-1 Rozier came out on top against 6-foot-6 Draymond Green to lead the Hornets to victory over Golden State and bring the crowd at the Spectrum Center to a full shout.

“I told Mason (Plumlee), ‘I’ll start doing the jump ball from now on.’ Not really,” Rozier joked during his postgame media session. “That (win) speaks for itself. We’re playing the No. 1 team in the league, so we come out to get the win. And where we’re headed, we’re trying to go places, get our organization like theirs. Great step (tonight) to what we want to do.”

Hornets coach James Borrego said that Rozier deserved “a ton of credit” for his role in Charlotte’s win over the Warriors.

“Terry was fantastic for us tonight. He got off to a slow start in the first half, but he showed his resiliency tonight and his character,” Borrego said. “I thought he was huge down the stretch, and that jump ball was the winning play for me. He willed himself to get that ball, and (that) really summed up his game tonight.”

Only time will tell if that performance will provide the spark to get Rozier’s shooting out of its month-long funk and help the Hornets (8-7) extend their current three-game winning streak.

LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges are both currently playing at the highest levels of their careers, and Gordon Hayward is quietly averaging more than 18 points a night despite limiting his shooting output. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cody Martin have both stepped up with P.J. Washington out due to a hyperextended left elbow.

In many ways, Rozier has been the missing link.

Throughout his career, his reputation around the NBA as a dangerous scorer has earned him the “Scary Terry” nickname. But for this season’s version of the Hornets, Borrego doesn’t need Rozier to always be scary — just efficient.