Pritchard Carries Summer League Momentum into Camp

BOSTON – Throughout last year’s Training Camp, various Celtics players and coaches spontaneously raved about how impressed they were with the play of rookie Payton Pritchard.

One year later, not much has changed.

The sophomore point guard is another year older and has a season of experience under his belt, but his hard-working reputation is still garnering the same level of awe from his peers, particularly among Boston’s newcomers.

Enes Kanter and Ime Udoka are the latest to climb aboard the Pritchard hype train after just two days of sharing the Auerbach Center gym with the second-year point guard.

“Payton, he’s been playing unbelievable man,” Kanter said following Wednesday's practice. “We were playing a scrimmage game and he was just giving everything he had, competing and leading. He’s going out there and giving all his heart.”

Pritchard came into last season with the same type of attitude, and it paid dividends. He had a stellar rookie campaign, during which he averaged 7.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range. He also led the Celtics in games played with 66 appearances, including four starts.

Pritchard then took all of that experience into Summer League this past offseason and blew away the competition. During his time in Las Vegas, he averaged 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field, 46.9 percent from long range, and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line.

And it appears to Udoka that none of Pritchard’s momentum has been lost.

“He's been great,” the first-year head coach said of his fellow Portland, Oregon native. “He's been great since you saw him in Summer League. He's been great in open gym, and he's carried that on into camp.”

The fact that Pritchard is competing for playing time with a duo of tenacious point guards in Dennis Schroder and Marcus Smart only makes him work harder.

“That's a guy that obviously doesn't lack confidence, so he's coming in battling,” said Udoka. “Obviously, we have some veteran point guards that are very competitive as well, so it's fun watching those three guys go against each other with Dennis and Marcus.”

In order to help Pritchard to get a leg up in the competition, Udoka and his staff are working to help the young guard to round out his game. Pritchard has been more of a score-first point guard throughout his career in high school and college, but now he’s working to become a better playmaker.

“Payton is a guy that you don't have to tell him (not) to hold back,” Udoka said. “He's going to be very aggressive and be who he is, but we're trying to teach him more of the position; not just looking to score every time. Coming off, he can get to the basket a ton. But you draw that crowd, you make the right play out of there.

“But he's been great, and his shooting is obviously a huge asset for what we want to do. And he's carried that right into camp with what you saw in the Summer League and last year even.”

Pritchard is approaching Year 2 with the same level of eagerness that he came in with as a rookie.

“It’s just being confident and keeping working on my craft and my game, and then obviously through my work, it will go over into the game,” he said. “So for me, it’s just a step-by-step process. Keep growing with the team and figuring out what you can do to help win games.”

Based on his first impression of Pritchard, Kanter believes the young point guard will be helping the Celtics win plenty in the future.

“He’s one guy who - I never played with him before - but he’ll be a big problem for other teams,” the veteran center said. “I’m just happy he’s on our side.”

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