Terry Rozier got the better of Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe in last year’s first round of the playoffs, and the Bucks guard has said that his renaissance this season came as a direct result of that disappointing time.

Though Rozier will come off the bench this time around behind Kyrie Irving, there’s a good chance that he and Bledsoe will find themselves face-to-face once again when the Celtics and Bucks begin their Eastern Conference semifinals series Sunday in Milwaukee.

Rozier relishes the chance at this renewed rivalry, though he’s also trying to be respectful about it.

“I can’t wait for it. It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m not going to speak too much on it. I don’t want to overtalk it. I’m not focused on me and him, it’s about us versus the Bucks. We’re going to take care of business as far as, like I said, me and him, we’re two competitors. If we get cool outside the lines, whatever happened in the summer, we seen each other, whatever. We get in between them lines, we’re two guys that want to win for our teams. It’s going to be there – the bad blood is going to be there.”

SMART NOT READY YET: Game 1 between the Celtics and Bucks will happen exactly three weeks after Marcus Smart tore his oblique against the Orlando Magic. While the Celtics aren’t saying much about a timeline for his return, he does seem to be progressing nicely.

“I know he won’t play this weekend,” team president Danny Ainge said. “But other than that I don’t really know.”

WILLIAMS DENIES CLAIM: According to multiple reports, Robert Williams was mailed a pair of sneakers stuffed with $11,000 in cash by a former Texas A&M assistant coach named Amir Abdur-Rahim in 2017 prior to the Celtics rookie joining that program. The revelation has come as part of a wide-ranging FBI investigation into college recruiting.

Williams, though, denied receiving any payments.

“I’ve been saying, never took anything from anybody during my college career,” he said after yesterday’s practice. “Honestly just trying to focus on these playoffs. I tend to stop social media because it gets to you during playoff time, but like I said, never took anything from anybody. Hope this goes away as fast possible.

“Man, it was just … it comes out,” he said. “It’s rumors, you know? But like I said, I stay as far away from social media as possible. It’s a black hole. So I stay far away from it, focusing on this, expanding my career.”

Asked if he believed college athletes should be paid, Williams said, “Honestly, not what I’m worried about right now. Just gotta move forward, filling in the shoes that coach and the team need me to fill in. Get prepared for Milwaukee, doing the best possible.”

THE CELTICS have made it clear – both publicly and behind the scenes – that they plan to make a strong push to re-sign star guard Kyrie Irving this summer.

Still, with rumors swirling about Irving’s commitment to Boston, the Celtics reportedly got at least one call from the Los Angeles Clippers before the trade deadline in February about a potential Irving deal. Shams Charania of The Atlantic reports that the Celtics quickly said no.

The Clippers clearly had an intriguing idea: Deal for Irving, get a piece already in place who might attract other free agents, and take a big swing at Kawhi Leonard this summer. Furthermore, Los Angeles could put together a nice offer with a load of assets, young players and draft picks that could be moved. If the Celtics had major concerns about keeping Irving, a Clippers package might have been tempting (along with all of the rebuild assets, just imagine Lou Williams in Brad Stevens’ offensive system).

But according to Charania, the Celtics agreed prior to the deadline they had no plans to move on from their current core before this summer, when all of the potential options will shake loose. If Irving is willing to stay, Boston might be able to assemble a powerhouse duo (or trio), along with intriguing pieces around them. Even if Irving’s commitment is wavering, that’s a gamble Boston’s front office appears willing to take.


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