It’s Payton Pritchard’s world and we’re all just living in it.
The rookie point guard has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame over the early part of the 2020-21 NBA season. From notching a career-high 23 points against the Toronto Raptors to hitting his first career game-winner two nights later against the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics look to have found themselves something in the former Oregon Duck.
Yet, while he may appear to have come out of nowhere to the average NBA viewer, Pritchard has been turning NBA heads for quite some time.
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Payton Pritchard Caught Norman Powell’s Eye Early On
The Athletic’s Jay King recently highlighted Pritchard’s amazing work ethic and a storied pre-draft showing through the eyes of NBA trainer Olin Simplis.
“That was when he gained the respect of literally everyone,” Simplis said, per King. “We would have 15 to 17 NBA guys in the gym, and obviously he was the least-known commodity. And he put on a show for about a four-minute stretch where it was just him every single time down.”
One of those “NBA guys” in the gym that day was Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell. The NBA Champion couldn’t help but soak in the brilliance as Pritchard “took over the five-on-five scrimmage.”
“Yo,” Powell said, shaking his head, per Simplis’ recollection. “This kid is really good.”
‘Second to None’
Powell wasn’t the only one enamored with Pritchard’s game. Simplis, who claimed the guard’s ballhandling skills are “pretty much second to none” lauded the 22-year-old’s desire to be great.
“I mean, his work ethic, his professionalism, all of the above is second to none. The kid comes in pretty much 30 minutes to an hour early daily, stays 30 minutes to an hour late after the workouts. Then he wants to come back in the evening and do more shooting most days,” Simplis said.
In 10 games this season, Pritchard has averaged 8.6 ppg, 2.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He’s seen his usage skyrocket of late, averaging nearly 26 minutes per game over his last four outings.
Theoretically, Pritchard could see his minutes dip with the impending return of All-Star guard Kemba Walker. However, the reigning No. 26 overall pick has done enough in a short time to warrant meaningful minutes in Boston’s rotation moving forward.
Kemba Walker Cleared to Return to Practice
Speaking of Walker, the Celtics announced on Friday that the four-time All-Star has been cleared to practice. According to head coach Brad Stevens, Walker’s troublesome left knee looks to be a thing of the past as he claims his star point guard has been “pain-free for a couple of months.”
“He and [strength coach Jace Delaney] have done a nice job putting together a plan of attack, along with Phil Coles, and then hopefully he’ll be back soon.” Steven said. “But we’re not going to rush that. We’ll see how the practice goes and all that other stuff.”
According to the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, the Celtics could be loosely targeting next Friday’s matchup against the Orlando Magic as a return date for Walker.
Obviously will ultimately depend on how Kemba’s full team workouts go but I’ve been hearing that they’re targeting next Friday vs Orlando for his return.
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) January 8, 2021
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