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Terry Rozier took Kyrie's shoes, now he's filling them during Boston's run

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Kyrie Irving a big fan of Rozier's Eurostep. (0:19)

Terry Rozier sidesteps by Robert Covington and finishes with the layup off the glass. (0:19)

The door creaked opened, and Terry Rozier gleefully waded into the sea of colorful footwear that appeared in front of him.

Two days before the start of the postseason, Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving had invited Rozier to his house for a pre-playoff pep talk. They quickly found themselves in a shoe closet.

And Irving gave his teammate free rein.

Rozier excitedly grabbed a pair of Irving's Kyrie 3 "Luck," a gold version of the guard's signature shoe with green shamrocks that Irving had debuted against the Golden State Warriors in November.

The next shoes to get swooped up were a pair of the purple Kyrie 4 "London" -- the shoes' bright yellow outsole stripes inspired by the top of the city's famous O2 Arena, where the Celtics had played in January.

Before long, a tower of shoes had grown outside the closet, the eight pairs of prized sneakers ready for immediate relocation to Rozier's locker at the Celtics' practice facility.

Maybe it was just a friendly gesture by Irving, but the symbolism of the moment cannot be overlooked. The Celtics have asked Rozier to fill Irving's shoes this postseason, and the third-year guard has responded by emerging as one of the most impactful players of the postseason.

With Rozier and his new collection of playoff kicks leading the way, the Celtics stand one win away from an improbable return trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

When Irving underwent season-ending knee surgery in early April, it was supposed to squash any lingering hope that these battered Celtics had of postseason success. What most didn't foresee was Boston's youngest players continuing their ascent to household names on the playoff stage.

"It's important to note that I knew who [Rozier] was." Former Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe

So, with Irving's shoes on his feet, and his wisdom in his head, Rozier is introducing the world to "Scary Terry," a lightning-fast guard with elite athleticism, steady ballhandling and a fun-loving personality that has aided his rise to the national spotlight this postseason.

"Kyrie's big advice was for me to be myself. That's the most important thing, he said," Rozier said. "There was nothing that he could teach me in so little time. So he told me to be myself. He believes in me, and I believe in myself.

"Now I'm just going out there and doing what I do."


Former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was home in Bend, Oregon, last month when a friend texted him a link to watch Rozier's postgame news conference following the Celtics' Game 1 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

That night, Rozier inadvertently referred to Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe as "Drew," which escalated tensions between two already hypercompetitive point guards. When asked about Rozier after Milwaukee's Game 2 loss in Boston a couple of nights later, a perturbed Eric Bledsoe barked, "Who? I don't even know who the f--- that is."

That's when Drew Bledsoe's social media mentions went wild.

"It's important to note that I knew who [Rozier] was," Bledsoe cracked during a recent call from the West Coast. "That's kind of how the whole thing started, right?"

Bledsoe is actually a big hoops fan and was sitting courtside at TD Garden in November for Boston's game against the Charlotte Hornets. That night, Irving suffered a facial fracture and departed early, but Rozier came off the bench to help extend a Boston winning streak that would eventually reach 16 games.

Appropriately, that win over Charlotte was No. 11 of the streak. Six months later, Drew Bledsoe's No. 11 jersey is becoming synonymous with Boston's surprising postseason success.

"This thing would be a nonstory if it weren't [for] the fact that Terry Rozier is playing great basketball," Bledsoe said. "It wouldn't be a story. That's the part to me that makes it really cool, that the kid is playing really really good basketball."

During the first-round series against the Bucks, Bledsoe posted a picture of himself in a "Scary Terry" T-shirt. The Celtics asked him to film a short video for Game 7, and it aired to raucous applause in the fourth quarter as Boston ended Milwaukee's season.

For Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rozier arrived wearing a Bledsoe Patriots throwback jersey, and social media went crazy yet again. Now, No. 11 jerseys have begun filling the crowd at TD Garden, some 25 years after he was originally drafted by New England (the Patriots drafted Bledsoe No. 1 in the 1993 draft, nearly 11 months before Rozier was even born).

"I think there were some people that had to go dig deep in their closet and find their old jersey from way back in the day," Bledsoe said. "But I'm glad they're still out there. And who knows, maybe the [Patriots'] pro shop is actually doing some business. They're going to have to go put some tape over [Julian] Edelman's name and get my name back on the 11 jersey."

@gmb_chum12 rocking the throwback!! Go get em kid!!

A post shared by Drew Bledsoe (@drewbledsoe) on

Bledsoe and Rozier still haven't formally corresponded, but there are plans for them to chat beyond their social media posts.

Bledsoe is enjoying this brief return to the New England spotlight, even as his focus remains on his family and their vineyards on the West Coast. He put a little gift in the mail to Rozier on Sunday.

"I actually just signed a big bottle of Doubleback for Terry today that's on its way to him," he said.

And to make sure there are no hard feelings, a bottle is on its way to Eric Bledsoe as well.


You'd have to go back to March 25 to find the last time Rozier turned the ball over in the fourth quarter this season. He has played 117 minutes since then, including 78 in the postseason, without coughing the ball up in the final frame.

Rozier entered the weekend second only to LeBron James in total points scored, or assists in the fourth quarter or overtime this postseason. Not bad company, though Rozier doesn't want to get too caught up in his numbers.

"It's not something that I think about before the fourth quarter starts," Rozier said. "I just want to keep it going. I think it's better when I don't pay attention to the numbers and go into the quarter and just do what I gotta do -- take care of business."

Rozier's success isn't limited to the fourth. He's averaging 19 points, 6.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds over 36.9 minutes per game this postseason, all while shooting 42 percent beyond the 3-point arc.

In fact, Rozier leads all postseason players in 3-pointers made (34). Not bad for someone who shot 30.6 percent beyond the arc over his first two seasons in the league.

What's more, the Celtics own a team-best offensive rating of 110.2 when Rozier is on the floor this postseason. That's nearly three points higher than Boston's postseason average. Boston's offensive rating plummets to a team-worst 98.0 when Rozier is on the bench.

"I think we all wish that Kyrie was here. But the reality of it is, it's a team sport for a reason," said Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen, who works with both Irving and Rozier and has seen firsthand the way Irving has nurtured Rozier's growth this season. "Terry took full advantage of his time while he was waiting for this opportunity. So now he's getting his chance, and we're seeing the results."

Allen and Celtics forward Marcus Morris can often be seen at practice or before games wearing "Scary Terry" merchandise. They're proud of the way Rozier has embraced his opportunity, and they love the glimpse of his personality that's showcased in the apparel.

"He works hard every day," Morris said. "I have a great relationship with Terry. We're friends. Good dude, man. One of the dudes that I was down most with when I first got here. It means a lot.

"That's just how the league is. You wait for your opportunity. You just have to be ready when it comes, and he's doing a great job. Better than a great job. He's carrying us. He's leading us. He's coming through in the clutch for us. He's done a lot for us, man. I'm very happy, very proud of him. Now I just want to see how far he can go."

If the Celtics go much further, Rozier might need to restock at Irving's sneaker emporium.

During Game 2 against the Bucks, Rozier wore mismatching Kyrie 2s that Irving wore during Cleveland's title season. On Rozier's right foot he wore the "Parade" -- on the left was an exclusive colorway that Nike had not released.

Rozier occasionally busts out pairs of Kobe ADs that have been customized by an 18-year-old high school senior in Franconia, New Hampshire, and sport his Scary Terry image. Still, there's nothing quite like Irving's collection.

"I go to his house every chance I get," Rozier said. "You got a guy like that who's with Nike and gets all the free stuff with Nike and all that. I'm going to take advantage, too."

Rozier pays it forward by handing out Scary Terry merchandise to his teammates and coaches. Morris keeps asking for more, while Allen says he's content with hand-me-downs for him and his son.

"I'm cheap, so I just ask for the old stuff," Allen said.

For as good as Rozier has been this postseason, Allen is pushing the guard to continue to expand his game. He doesn't expect Rozier will be content with the success he's had. And Irving is unlikely to let him settle, either.

Said Allen: "I think Terry is appreciative of their relationship."

It's gotta be the shoes? It goes well beyond that.

ESPN's Nick DePaula contributed to this story.