Holiday Calls Pritchard ‘Just a Natural Bucket’

BOSTON – As one of the premier defenders in basketball, Jrue Holiday knows a special offensive talent when he sees one. So when he lauded Payton Pritchard’s skill set Monday afternoon, his words were not to be taken lightly.

“He can hoop. He’s just a natural bucket,” Holiday noted of Pritchard after practice. “The way that he plays is so easy. It looks like it just comes naturally to him.”

Holiday didn’t just make these observations over the last couple of weeks since joining the Celtics; he’s felt this way about Pritchard for a while, having faced off against him in the past and also from just watching from afar.

Now that they’re teammates, Holiday can’t wait to see how they work together and feed off each other on the floor.

“It’s always fun to watch him play. But playing with him, he's great to play off of,” Holiday said. “Obviously the shooter that he is, he can either play off-ball or you play off the ball with him and he has the ball. A very versatile player."

Pritchard feels similarly and is excited to take notes from such an established veteran point guard.

“Jrue is an unbelievable player,” Pritchard said shortly before Holiday spoke his kind words. “So for me to have somebody like that, who I can learn so much from defensively, offensively, just how he attacks the game is incredible. I’m definitely going to be picking his brain a lot this year.”

What Pritchard may not be aware of yet is that Holiday plans to pick his brain, as well. Holiday doesn’t just view himself as a mentor, but also as a learner of the game – even at 33 years old – and there is plenty that the two-time All-Star can gain from his 25-year-old teammate.

“There are things I feel like I can get from him – even how he comes off the screen and shoots it,” said Holiday. “He’s a couple of inches shorter than me, but he gets his shot off every time and it’s pure. So I think it’s just having a relationship, building that chemistry, and then just keeping that line of communication open is important.”

Pritchard’s pure shooting has been on full display this preseason, as he’s connected on 52.3 percent of his attempts from the field, including 41.9 percent from 3-point range. And that’s while shooting at high volume. He’s also averaging 21.7 points per game, which ranks him No. 1 on the team and among the top five preseason scorers in the league.

Aside from his numbers, Pritchard has also been praised for his communication and willingness to take initiative. Head coach Joe Mazzulla sees a player who is eager to learn and lead.

“The most important thing is that he asks questions. He wants to understand,” said Mazzulla. “And so he’s asking me, he’s asking the assistants, he’s asking his teammates questions, and that gives him the ability to communicate with his teammates. He’s doing a great job of recognizing situational basketball on both ends of the floor and how we can be better at it.”

Pritchard is hoping for a breakout fourth season, and all signs are pointing toward one. He has a new contract extension in hand, he has less backcourt competition after the offseason departures of Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon, and he’s taking all the right steps toward earning an increased role.

“For me, it’s just controlling what I can control and that’s showing up every day, getting my work in, and attacking the minutes that I do get,” Pritchard said of his mindset. “So defensively, offensively, whatever that is, that’s kind of where my head’s at. Whatever I get, I’m gonna go out and play hard, play aggressive, and lay it all out.”

So far, he’s making all the right impressions. As a “natural bucket” should.