Bucks rookie is partaking in prominent rivalry before even putting on a jersey

AJ Johnson's confidence has been on full display.
2024 NBA Draft - Round One
2024 NBA Draft - Round One / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

AJ Johnson has yet to don a Milwaukee Bucks jersey, but he's already hopping in the ring when it comes to one of the team's budding rivalries.

In a recent interview with ESPN Milwaukee, Johnson said that one of his NBA player comparisons is Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton. When talking about Haliburton and the Pacers, who bested the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Playoffs this past season, Johnson let it be known that he plans on helping the team get back at them.

"We gon' get that payback for sure" was all Johnson had to say to add more fuel to this tense rivalry.

The Bucks and Pacers are not on the friendliest of terms

Milwaukee and Indiana clashed plenty of times this past season, and there was always head-butting between the players. The most notable incident was the game-ball fiasco, where it seemed like theIndiana Pacers snatched the game ball purposefully after Giannis Antetokounmpo had 64 points, which led to heated confrontations on the court and in the tunnel.

There were also several smaller incidents, like Haliburton seemingly mocking Damian Lillard's watch celebration or Bobby Portis getting ejected in the NBA Playoffs after a scuffle. It all culminated with a hard-fought six-game playoff series, where the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks fell to the Pacers. Now, AJ Johnson is ready to help write the next chapter in this rivalry.

Ironically, Johnson is exactly the type of player who could help the Bucks in this particular matchup. Indiana's major advantage over Milwaukee, excluding the obvious absence of Antetokounmpo in the playoffs, was that they were so much faster and more athletic than them. Both of those are attributes Johnson possesses, and that could help him make a name for himself in this league.

At 19, the odds of Johnson becoming a significant contributor under Doc Rivers right away are slim, so he may not be much help in this rivalry this coming season, but he could certainly do his part over the next several years. Even before he plays a single game for the Milwaukee Bucks, Johnson is ready to go up against one of the team's top rivals, brimming with confidence.

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