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Celtics teammates impressed by Terry Rozier’s newfound confidence 09.27.16 at 11:01 am ET
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Terry Rozier (12) points to Al Horford (42) during a light moment during Celtics media day (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Terry Rozier points to Al Horford in a light moment during Celtics media day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Terry Rozier appears to be ready to take on a larger role with the Celtics this season. The confident young point guard is coming into his own, and his teammates have noticed the strides he’s made throughout the offseason.

Rozier points to the playoff opportunity he received against the Hawks last year as a catalyst to his newfound confidence. He played five games, averaging 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 19.8 minutes. It was the kind of experience Rozier — as a rookie — believes he needed.

“I feel that anytime a rookie can get on the floor and play in the playoffs, it feels like a boost going into the next season. So that definitely played a big factor,” Rozier said at Monday’s media day. “I’m just excited for next season.

[I’m] just mainly more comfortable out there. I know that myself, if I’m comfortable playing this game that I love, then I’ll be fine. I can just about play with anybody. So just slowing my mind down and just being comfortable out there and just relax and play.”

One teammate who has noticed Rozier’s great offseason is Marcus Smart. When he was asked about the team’s vacant sixth man role, Smart mentioned Rozier as one of the lead reserves the Celtics have coming off their bench.

“With the absence of Evan, he’s going to be missed here. The things he brought to the team, he created his own jump shot. He created for others,” Smart said. “Everybody else understands the role that he left us with and we have to step up as a team, I have to step up as an individual, but this team has to step up. And there’s a lot of players. We’ve got guys coming off the bench like Terry Rozier, who’s been real good in the offseason. And as you guys saw in the summer league, he’s been playing his butt off.”

Even Al Horford — who has only played with Rozier for a month — is impressed with the strides Rozier has made. In talking about the Celtics’ young players, Horford singled out the second-year guard as one of his teammates who improved their game from last season.

“There’s a lot of the younger guys who were very, very athletic,” Horford told reporters Monday. “Guys that have definitely gotten better — Jae Crowder came in and played with us one day and his 3-point shot has gotten better. That was good to see. I was encouraged by Terry as well. He’s looked good all month. It just excited me to see that a lot of these guys are making progress in their game.”

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Isaiah Thomas improves diet, consults with Harvard ‘sleep doctor’ this offseason 09.27.16 at 8:29 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas has made lifestyle changes that he thinks will carry over to the court (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

Isaiah Thomas has made lifestyle changes that he hopes will carry over to the court. (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

WALTHAM — Isaiah Thomas has been in the NBA long enough to know just how important health and conditioning is during the offseason. At Monday’s media day, he told reporters how the changes he’s made will make him a better player this year.

Entering his sixth season, Thomas sounded like a seasoned veteran in discussing the changes he’s made in his eating habits and sleeping pattern as he aims to extend his career to the age of 40.

“I changed my diet,” Thomas said. “I hired a personal chef back home, and I’m eating vegetables for the first time since when my dad used to make me. I eliminated fast food. You guys have heard it before — I want to play until I’m 40, and I know it starts with little things like that. Last week I got in contact with Dr. Z [Charles Czeisler] over there at Harvard, the ‘Sleep Doctor.’ I’m trying to learn how to sleep longer and sleep more. Not only am I going to eat healthier, I’m going to get a lot of sleep. Instead of watching TV and playing video games, I have to learn to get more sleep. That will help me be a better basketball player. Those are the little things I am trying to figure out. The older I get, the more I’m trying to figure those little things out to be a better basketball player. It’s not all on the court.”

Thomas also admitted that he’s still bitter over last year’s first-round playoff exit against the Hawks. He explained how he’s never given so much effort on the basketball court like he did in the playoffs, and that he’s using last season as motivation heading into the 2016-17 season.

“Whole offseason that’s all I thought about,” Thomas said. “Losing that series left a bad taste in all of our mouths. We want to get past that first round. I do, I know that. I want to go further. We have a good team, and people to make that happen. Last season hurt me especially because that’s the first time I can say I gave everything I had. I had no more left in me, and that’s why I hurt so much. Having everybody back for another year, we’re looking for bigger and better things. What that may be we don’t know, but hopefully we can jell faster than we did last year with the additions we have on this team.”

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Celtics Player Preview: Jalen Jones 09.26.16 at 12:30 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

2015-16 season 

33 games with Texas A&M: 27.3 minutes, 15.3 points, 42.5% FG, 7.2 rebounds, 0.7 steals

Jones was one of the Aggies’ go-to scorers his senior year. His long frame helped him score baskets at an efficient rate. Jones began his college career at SMU but sat out of the 2013-14 season after transferring to Texas A&M. He became a starter almost immediately after the start of his junior year and put together his best season last year. 

Projected role in 2016-17

Jones will be one of four players without guaranteed contracts at training camp and was the last man added to the 20-man roster. He most likely will spend his season in the D-League.

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Celtics Player Preview: Tyler Zeller 09.24.16 at 10:07 am ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

TYLER ZELLER

2015-16 season 

60 games with Celtics: 11.8 minutes, 6.1 points, 47.6% FG, 3.0 rebounds

Zeller saw his minutes cut in half last season but made the best of his situation by stepping up in moments when the Celtics needed him. After losing his starting job to Amir Johnson, Zeller saw his role further diminished as Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger shared minutes at the center spot. But Zeller did have a few memorable performances. In a 124-109 win over the Bucks in early April — a game with playoff implications — Zeller had his best game of the season, finishing with 26 points on 9-of-15 shots and four blocks. It proved to Stevens that he always has a backup plan in Zeller — a player who can score in double figures on any given night.

Projected role in 2016-17

Behind Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, there aren’t a whole lot of minutes for Zeller this season. However, when opportunities are present Zeller will provide instant offense. There’s a reason the Celtics signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal this past summer. He may be an insurance policy for Johnson and Olynyk (who is expected to miss the start of the regular season after having surgery on his right shoulder) but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of taking on big minutes. There just aren’t enough minutes for Zeller. His offense is inferior to Olynyk’s and Johnson is a much better defender — thus making Zeller the Celtics’ third-string center this season.

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Celtics Player Preview: Abdel Nader 09.23.16 at 12:01 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

ABDEL NADER

2015-16 season

35 games with Iowa State: 12.9 points, 48.7% FG, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals

After transferring from Northern Illinois to Iowa State before his junior year, Nader became a starter his senior year and doubled his scoring average — earning All-Big 12 honorable mention accolades. He also shot 37.1 percent from deep for the Cyclones. 

Projected role in 2016-17

Nader isn’t going to have an opportunity to help the Celtics this season. He’ll spend the regular season developing with the Red Claws. Offensively, the C’s would love for him to flourish into a 3-point shooter with high-level defensive capabilities.

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Celtics Player Preview: James Young 09.22.16 at 3:24 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

JAMES YOUNG

2015-16 season

23 games with D-League’s Maine Red Claws: 28.3 minutes, 15.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals

After a decent rookie season in the D-League, Young had a rough sophomore campaign — one that had Celtics fans questioning his future in the NBA. In 29 games with the Celtics, he managed to only score 29 points, grab 68 rebounds and dish out nine assists. Young still has a ways to go in reaching his full potential as the 21-year-old heads toward his third year in the league. But after seeing rookies like R.J. Hunter and Terry Rozier earn more playing time than Young last season — especially in the postseason — it raises the question: Is there space for Young on the 2016-17 Celtics?

Projected role in 2016-17

Young’s scoring will make or break his chances of making the team this year. If he can hit 3-pointers at a high level throughout the preseason, he will have a spot on the back end of the 15-man roster. The Celtics are always looking to improve on their outside shooting. Young has shown glimpses of stellar 3-point shooting, but he’s going to have to piece it together and soon.

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Celtics Player Preview: Al Horford 09.21.16 at 8:58 pm ET
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With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

AL HORFORD

2015-16 season 

82 games with Hawks: 32.1 minutes, 15.2 points, 50.5% FG, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks

Horford was selected to his fourth All-Star team and continues to be one of the league’s most productive big men. After finishing the 2014-15 season atop of the Eastern Conference with a 60-22 record, the Hawks had somewhat of a disappointing season last year, but Horford was one of their bright spots. For the past two years, his production in points, rebounding and assists are identical and he has improved his average in blocks from 1.3 to 1.5.

Projected role in 2016-17

Horford will be one of the most important players in the front court for the Celtics. He gives the C’s another 15-plus-point scorer and the fact that shoots at a 50 percent clip from the field gives the Celtics a very consistent scorer. Alongside Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, Horford strengthens the defense down low and he’ll be able to slide back to the power forward position instead of playing center, where he can be much more effective in defending undersized forwards. His mid-range shot — that can extend out to the 3-point arc — will spread the floor on offense, forcing opposing teams to run out to defend him and making room for guys like Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to take the ball to the rim.

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