NBA G-League Watch: PJ Dozier a Star for Celtics’ Maine Affiliate
Photo Credit - Joel Page/Portland Press Herald
While the Boston Celtics have lost their past two games in a row, their Portland, Maine G-League affiliate has emphatically won theirs. The team has seen many two-way players move up and down between the team, but one constant star for the Maine Red Claws has been guard PJ Dozier.
Dozier, an undrafted player out of the University of South Carolina has shined since signing a two-way deal with the Celtics in August 2018. The Red Claws guard has averaged 21.4 points, 7.0 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game this season.
The 2018-19 season has been a breakout season for Dozier, as his performances placed him on the recently named All-NBA G-League team, the equivalent of the All-Star team. The G-League ended All-Star festivities after 2017, but have continued on with the All-NBA G-League team since then.
“It’s an honor for sure. People kind of undermine this league and it’s a great league with great players. We’ve seen that through the past years with guys getting call ups and guys going to the league having huge impacts on their teams,” Dozier said. “It’s a huge honor for me, and a huge accomplishment for myself. I couldn’t do it without my teammates or my coaching staff so I just thank them for allowing me to be put in a place where I can accomplish something like that.”
Dozier is only in his second season, and for a sophomore player he has been outstanding. He has been a focal point of the Red Claws starting five this year. When asked about what he attributes to his success and how much that translates into the idea of moving up to Boston, he was very humble in his answer.
“Just being dedicated to the game. Night in, night out putting in the work and you know ultimately seeing the results. Being able to have personal goals and accomplishments happen, it helps you continue to drive,” Dozier said. “All the coaching staff and teammates I’ve played with in the past have got me here, and of course all grace to God to have the opportunities to have the two-ways and the chances to reach my goals.”
In his time with Oklahoma last season, he only appeared in two games for the Thunder last year and spent the rest of the season in the G-League. Since coming to Boston he has been played in four games for Boston this season, a much different atmosphere than a Red Claws home game at the Portland Expo.
“It’s just a bigger stage, but at the end of the day it’s just the same game of basketball with the same goals and desire to win the game. Just being on a bigger platform and a bigger stage is what we all dream about playing on so it’s definitely a blessing to be able to have the opportunity to be able to guy up with those guys in a great organization and play for them as well as here,” Dozier said.
Though born and raised in South Carolina, Dozier has family ties within the Boston Celtics organization in the form of his late second cousin Reggie Lewis. Lewis, whose number 35 hangs from the rafters at the TD Garden in Boston, spent his entire career in Boston from 1987-1993 before passing away from a heart attack at the age of 27. Lewis was named an NBA All-Star in 1992 while in the prime of his career.
Dozier has always worn No. 35 to honor Lewis until stepping up to the Boston Celtics.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, you know those guys work so hard on their careers and having their number retired is a huge privilege,” Dozier said. “I don’t want to knock anything or any of his accomplishments. He did a great job on the court, I’m just blessed to be related to him period. Just being able to honor him knowing that’s one of the reasons I’m doing it is enough for me.”
The South Carolina native made headlines last Friday after hitting the game-winning shot at the buzzer in a 112-109 Red Claws win over the Delaware Blue Coats. In an interview pre-game with Dozier, he spoke about the shot and his mindset going into it.
“You know that’s what us players play for to hit big shots like that. Just really needed it to go in, that’s all I was focused on, just winning the game. The team played great all the way up to that point and we just needed that one bucket,” Dozier said. “I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to take that shot.” The deep three-pointer silenced the 76ers Fieldhouse, while the team celebrated on the away court.
The Red Claws looked to continue the momentum of Dozier’s winner into Sunday’s game, where the hosted the Windy City Bulls and a familiar face at the Portland Expo. Ex-Red Claw Walter Lemon Jr. was returning to Maine for the first time since he was waived by the Celtics in late November of last year. Lemon Jr. 23.5 points, 6.8 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game in his 10-game stay in Maine.
Though his time with the Red Claws was short, he made lasting relationships on the team.
“It’s great man, me and Walt ever since we met each other a couple years ago playing against each other. He’s a great player, and I tell him that all of the time. We all look forward to this matchup with his team, it’s gonna be fun. I know he’s gonna go out and do what he needs to do what he needs to for his team to win and we’re gonna try to prevent that from happening,” Dozier said.
Dozier and Lemon Jr. continue to stay in touch on social media, and both set out to get a victory for their team on Sunday.
Going into the game, the Red Claws had not faced the Bulls since Nov. 29, 2018, where the Bulls won 106-105. The team was looking to set the record straight and make sure they get the victory on their home court. Dozier spoke about how the last score impacts the outlook on the game against the Bulls.
“It’s a huge job for us, at the end of the day each game is a winnable game for us and we feel like we can beat anybody. No game is more important than the next and we all have that same mindset to do what we need to do each night to go out there and get that win,” Dozier said.
Maine would go on to win the game 121-113. Dozier recorded 16 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Archie Goodwin and two-way player RJ Hunter were the standout performers, with Goodwin scoring 27 points and Hunter getting near a triple-double with 24 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds.
Dozier and the Red Claws will look to continue their winning ways when hosting Blue Coats on Friday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. Should Dozier continue to dominate his way through the G-League, a move into the NBA may not be too far in the future.