EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Michael Jordan pushed Terry Rozier to sign with Hornets over Suns

Aug 14, 2019, 10:39 AM | Updated: 1:20 pm
Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) drives past Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges during the fi...
Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) drives past Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

Michael Jordan appears to be the man to blame for point guard Terry Rozier landing with the Charlotte Hornets rather than the Phoenix Suns this offseason.

Whether the result is good or bad for the Suns is up to future interpretation.

Jordan targeted Rozier this summer, so badly that the restricted free agent guard told Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams that it was the former NBA superstar and current owner of the Hornets who pushed his GM, Mitch Kupchak, to get a deal done.

That was needed because Phoenix apparently had an enticing offer out to Rozier, who was a free agent for the Boston Celtics. Before the free agency period opened, Rozier expected to take a one-year deal with the Knicks, but early that morning, the Suns put an offer on the table that trumped New York’s, he said.

Even after the Hornets expressed interest, Rozier told Bleacher Report that he believed Phoenix’s offer would be the one he accepted.

That was when, Rozier said, Michael Jordan, the Hornets’ principal owner, intervened. “Mike was overseas, and I can just picture him probably having a cigar in his mouth and the words he told Mitch [Kupchak], the GM, was like: ‘Get him over here. Do what you need to do to get him over here.'”

Rozier was sold. “I’d be a fool if I was to go anywhere else or turn down that,” he said. “I look at it as just a team, organization believing in me. Knowing that I want to prove myself in this league and giving me that chance is bigger than anything and [their willingness] to pay me a right amount of money, it was just big and the guy that was behind all that was Michael Jordan. It’s still surreal to me.”

Rozier’s deal: a three-year contract worth $58 million. With that agreed upon, Charlotte initiated a sign-and-trade to acquire Rozier from the Celtics in a deal that sent fellow point guard Kemba Walker the other way.

The Suns appeared ready to handle the fallout.

They worked quickly to agree upon a three-year, $51 million contract with former Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio. They had Rubio locked up in the first half-hour of the official free agency period.

Comparing the contracts and the players leaves a lot of questions considering it’s not known what Phoenix offered to Rozier.

Rubio’s deal increases from $16.2 million to $17.8 million over three years, while Rozier’s contract decreases from $19.9 million to $17.9 million. Rubio is 28 — with a lot of mileage — and more of a pass-first point guard. He averaged 12.7 points and 6.1 assists per game in 2018-19.

Rozier is 25 years old and coming off a season in which he struggled to find his footing. With Boston, he averaged 9.0 points and 2.9 assists while shooting just 39% from the field.

Rozier has never shot above 40% is any of his four NBA seasons — the jump-shot-challenged Rubio has done so the last three seasons. Rozier has also never averaged more than 3.0 assists per game, but his 2017-18 postseason run of 19 games in which he averaged 16.5 points and 5.7 assists is a marker of his potential that Charlotte hopes he can reach.

Will he? And would he be capable of doing so alongside Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton had he joined the Suns instead?

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Michael Jordan pushed Terry Rozier to sign with Hornets over Suns