Pritchard Dazzles in Pro Debut, Drops 16 Points Off Bench
Payton Pritchard sure looked like he belonged during his NBA debut.
The rookie point guard came off of Boston’s bench Tuesday night and dazzled during his first preseason game, logging 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot against the Philadelphia 76ers. He finished second among all Celtics reserves in playing time with nearly 22 minutes of action, which trailed only Grant Williams.
Pritchard, whom Boston selected 26th overall during the November NBA Draft, wasted no time getting into the action once his name was called with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter. On his very first possession, he crossed up his defender and drove to the baseline for a pullup jumper from 13 feet out.
Three minutes later, he strung together a sequence that featured a patient drive-and-kick to fellow point guard Jeff Teague for a 3-pointer, followed by a blocked shot against veteran Mike Scott at the other end.
His early impact was a sign of what was to come the rest of the night. Pritchard made a consistent impact throughout the remainder of the contest with his poise, pace and skill. When all was said and done, Pritchard finished as the team’s second-leading scorer and assist man.
The performance spoke volumes for the 22-year-old guard, who is just 11 days into his first training camp in the world’s most competitive basketball league.
“Honestly, it was just trying to get in the flow of things,” Pritchard said his effort. “Obviously, it’s a little bit of a different game than the college level and this was my first time, so a little bit of jitters. So just really just trying to get a feel out there and that was pretty much it.”
Pritchard’s feel was surprisingly fluid after going more than nine months without playing a full-scale basketball game prior to Tuesday. He hadn’t participated in a true game, with full rosters on either side and a crew of officials, since March 7, when his Oregon Ducks defeated Stanford during his final collegiate game.
After spending the past nine months transitioning from training, to being drafted, to being thrown into a crash-course entry into the NBA, Pritchard was ecstatic to finally take the court with his new team and play the game he loves.
“It was awesome to be back out here again,” he said. “There’s nothing like a real game setting.”
Now that real games are back on the docket, the next step for Pritchard is to study his and his team’s performance and quickly learn from their successes and failures while keeping his mind clear of clutter. At this point, with Opening Night looming just seven days away, time and clarity are both of the essence.
“I think it’s just every day is a long class … They are in every which way in a crash course, and we’re just trying to expedite it as much as we can,” Brad Stevens said of integrating Pritchard and fellow rookie Aaron Nesmith. “Part of that is simplifying their roles, and I think we’re going to have to do that, especially early on.”
Consider that plan a success for Pritchard through Preseason Game 1. Things seemed pretty darn simple for him as he dazzled and looked like he belonged from the moment he checked into Tuesday’s contest.