After Career Night, Reflective Payton Pritchard Discusses NBA Journey and His Ultimate Pursuit

Apr 7, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) shoots a lay up.
Apr 7, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) shoots a lay up. / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
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Payton Pritchard spent last season buried behind Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Malcolm Brogdon on the depth chart.

"Most guys in his position, the league breaks them," voiced Joe Mazzulla on the heels of the former Oregon Duck signing a four-year, $30 million contract extension before the current campaign got underway.

Between a trying season mostly spent on the bench and inking that extension came a stint with the USA men's basketball select team that proved crucial.

Pritchard told Inside The Celtics that training in that environment was a "confidence booster," adding, "All the players, there are top-level players; they're stars of their team, so to go out there and compete with those guys and see where your game matches up is -- it definitely was a boost of confidence, and I believe in myself at a high level. So, I'll continue to do that." 

The 26-year-old's contractual security and what his time with Team USA did for his confidence and his game has translated to generating nine points, 3.2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per contest; all of those are career-highs for the fourth-year guard. He's also drilling 38 percent of the 4.6 threes he's hoisting.

Beyond the numbers, he's demonstrated considerable growth orchestrating the pick-and-roll, changing pace to create points at the rim for the individual who set the screen.

On Friday night at TD Garden, his maturation was on display as he scored a career-high 31 points and dished out 11 assists, pacing all participants in both categories, as he led Boston to a 131-98 thrashing of the Charlotte Hornets.

"Just being a complete player from the standpoint of every game is gonna be different, and he affects the game in many different ways because -- obviously -- having a consistent role for an entire season is really beneficial," Joe Mazzulla said of a necessary aid in Pritchard's development after Friday's win.

"I think this is the first time he's had that, where you know each and every night exactly when he's playing, where he's playing, and kind of what the intention is," continued the Celtics' bench boss. 

"So, a little bit of that, and then it could be different: it could be shooting, it could be ball-handling, it could be defense, it could be rebounding. And then he really takes pride in game management, end of quarters, start of quarters, scanning the floor, so it's been really good to watch him play."

Regarding the role becoming a rotation fixture has played in his ability to be consistent, the former first-round pick conveyed, "It definitely helps a lot -- for any player, when you're getting spot minutes, it's tough; you don't know when it's gonna come (and) when you do get the minutes, what is your role out there? What are you being put out there for? And I think in the past, a lot of the time, it wasn't necessarily for me to be a point guard or even a playmaker. It was really like a come-in, try to hit some threes and bring energy defensively, rebounding, stuff like that.

"So, I think my role has definitely grown a little bit this year, and with that, I've grown and been better at playmaking and making the game easy for myself but also my teammates."

As Pritchard continues honing his craft, pursuing the best version of himself as a true point guard who strikes a balance between scoring and facilitating is the north star guiding his evolution.

"I think it's something that I'm gonna continue working on. And hopefully, by the time my career is over, that's where I want to be the best at, and being a true point guard, and that's where I kinda wanna hang my hat on. (It's) definitely a process, and I'm gonna keep working on getting better at that."

Further Reading

'Nip That in the Bud': Celtics Address End-of-Season Struggles

Jrue Holiday on Celtics Extension: 'Try to Get More Banners, Get More Rings'

Aiming to Maximize Championship Window, Celtics Extend Jrue Holiday

Neemias Queta Inks New Deal with Celtics

Seldom-Used Celtics Reserve Showcasing Playoff Value

Jaylen Brown Shares What Latest Milestone Means to Him

Celtics Embracing Challenge to Go Beyond Most Talented

Jayson Tatum Opens Up About Sacrificing in Celtics' Title Pursuit: 'It's a Process'

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'

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Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.