Pritchard Embracing All Aspects of Rookie ‘Learning Curve’

Payton Pritchard is embracing all aspects that come with his rookie journey - both the good and the bad.

In his case, the Celtics’ backup point guard has mostly dealt with ups throughout the first half of his first season while he's emerged as one of the more surprising early successes of the 2020 draft class. At the moment, however, he’s learning how to grind through his first down period.

During his first 18 appearances, Pritchard averaged 8.4 points per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 46.9 percent from 3-point range. But during his last 10, he has dealt with some inconsistency while averaging 5.5 PPG on a 35.4 percent clip from the field and 17.9 percent mark from beyond the arc.

The encouraging part about Pritchard’s struggles of late is how he is approaching them from a mental standpoint. Many rookies panic when they enter a slump and it affects their play, but Pritchard has taken on this recent stretch with a calm and positive attitude, knowing that he’ll break out of it sooner rather than later.

“Everything is a new experience this year and that’s part of it,” he acknowledged of his recent dip Tuesday afternoon ahead of a home matchup against the LA Clippers. “I want to come out and hit a lot of shots, do a lot of great things, but I just have to stay with it, stay prepared and keep growing.”

With that attitude, Pritchard has made some progress of late and is starting to look more like himself again. During the last two games, he’s totaled 16 points and nine rebounds while shooting 7-of 15 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from long range. The Celtics have also won both of those games after losing three in a row.

“I think we’re jelling a little bit more and there’s more excitement,” Pritchard said of those two wins from a group perspective. “Everybody is trying to figure out how they’re going to help this team. We’ve had a lot of injuries this year because we haven’t had our full team, ever. That’s part of the NBA, but for us, it’s just to keep growing, keep jelling and will make a run at the end.”

Pritchard is also learning what it takes to keep growing from an individual standpoint, as he navigates down this new, unfamiliar path of a 72-game season.

“It's really about how to mentally and physically take care of my body and prepare for each game,” he said. “The NBA season is a grind. It's a lot of late nights, you fly in late, you got to play the next day, so it's finding ways to get up and actually physically and mentally prepare for that next game, and not be kind of tired and stuff like that. So for me, that's been the biggest adjustment.”

There will surely be more ups and downs for Pritchard as he adjusts to the NBA game, but he’s eager to gain knowledge through all of those experiences, good or bad.

“This is a learning curve,” he said, “and I have to keep learning.”

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