MILWAUKEE — With Terry Rozier not 100 percent, the Celtics decided to take no chances, realizing how important the guard is to the team’s short-term future that starts with Wednesday’s game in Toronto.
So even after checking in at 85 percent hours prior to the Celtics’ matchup Tuesday with the Milwaukee Bucks, Rozier was scratched, replaced by rookie Kadeem Allen.
Why Allen? He is the Celtics’ last remaining true point guard on the roster. The rookie from Arizona was the 53rd overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft and has spent most of the season with G-League Maine. But with Shane Larkin back in Boston with the flu, Kyrie Irving recovering from knee surgery, and now Rozier felled with a sprained left ankle, Allen was the next up.
“[Allen] knows what we’re doing; he’s a really good defensive point guard; he can handle the ball,” coach Brad Stevens said. “He can get us into [offensive] spots and he’s had games [in the G-League] where he’s scored the ball really well and I thought he gave us good minutes [Saturday against Toronto]. We’ll play with a bunch of different facilitators.”
The rookie guard ended up registering only 2 points and two assists in 23 minutes in the Celtics’ 106-102 loss.
Stevens said he would dig deep into his bench for ball-handlers, but even the poised coach had to shake his head at the number of injuries that has beset his team.
“You have to be ready to play; everybody gets their opportunity, you say that all the time,” he said. “Kadeem’s been patiently waiting his turn. Jabari [Bird] got in that game early on in the year and helped us win that 76ers game.”
Allen, who has played spot minutes with the Celtics, has spent considerable time at point guard with Maine. But he realizes this isn’t Maine.
“We’ve been practicing with the guys so we know what to expect,” Allen said. “I feel very prepared, the practices and shootarounds and walkthroughs with the team, I feel the most prepared I could be right now. I’m just ready for the challenge.”
Stevens has stressed to his young players since training camp that they may get an opportunity to perform in a meaningful game and his words have proven true. Allen, Bird, Guerschon Yabusele, Abdel Nader, and Semi Ojeleye are first-year players who have all played key minutes.
“I was always talking to Marcus Morris before the season and he always said it’s about opportunity,” Allen said. “Every game he always told me to be ready. [Tuesday morning] we talked about it and it came true.
“It’s a lot of motivation, especially with guys like us. This is a talented team and for us to have the opportunity to play and show what we can do, it means a lot to us.”
Allen scored the Celtics’ first basket Tuesday on a 14-foot jumper.
Rozier was standing on a pad on his left foot doing exercises before the game, but Stevens would not commit to the third-year guard playing Wednesday against the Raptors.
“He was 80-85 percent this morning and we’re not playing him if he’s not better than that,” Stevens said in all seriousness. “Obviously with six games left and our health situation being what it is, Terry’s going to have a lot of minutes ahead and we want him to feel great.”
Jaylen Brown was one of the Celtics who showed support in Sacramento for the family of Stephon Clark, the unarmed man recently killed by police who were searching for a vandalism suspect.
Members of the Kings and Celtics wore T-shirts prior to the game that read “Accountability. We are one” on the front and “#StephonClark” on the back.
Brown, who recently spoke at Harvard and has discussed and researched social issues, said he just wanted to show support for the Clark family.
“I just thought it would be a nice gesture,” he said. “No amount of protesting or no amount of good deeds will ever bring their son back. It’s something I’ve never experienced, but losing someone that close you, I know what that feels like. I just think that was a gesture from the Celtics to just try to honor the life of Stephon Clark.”
Brown said players should regularly speak out and react to social issues.
“I don’t think it should be something people haven’t seen,” he said. “It should be the norm. We can always do more. Everybody can do more. That process continues to grow. We have to get comfortable talking about things that athletes don’t normally talk about.”