Boston Celtics rookie Pritchard Payton’s 23-point, 8-assist performance against the Toronto Raptors Monday night not only made franchise history but it also didn’t go unnoticed by one of the New England Patriots’ all-time, most-revered players in franchise history.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who just put a bow on an underwhelming regular season where he spent the majority of the year nursing a knee injury, gave the Celtics rook a shout out via his Instagram social-media account, Tuesday evening.
New England Patriots Wide Receiver Julian Edelman To Celtics Rookie Payton Pritchard: ‘Keep It Up, Bub’
On his Instagram story, Julian wrote. “My guy @PaytonPritch3 reppin the sticks! Keep it up bub,” Edelman wrote on top of a picture of Pritchard from Monday’s game.
Pritchard “rockin the sticks” is Edelman’s way of saying he really likes Payton’s No. 11 – the same number Edelman wears as a member of the Patriots. Jersey numbers aside, it’s nice to see a fellow New England athlete show love to a newcomer like Pritchard, especially, this early.
But with only eight games under his belt, there’s a significant buzz surrounding Pritchard and the Celtics’ shorthanded backcourt for a reason. Averaging 8.6 points while shooting at a 54% clip, including 42.1% from three and 3.1 assists in 23 minutes a game, Pritchard has turned to head coach Brad Stevens’ go-to option off the bench.
He’s been able to facilitate at a high-level for Stevens. In a short sample, Pritchard has already proven he can enter a game and immediately change the offensive pace when it’s gone stagnant, disrupt opposing guards, and most impressively; score from inside and outside the 3-point arc.
It’s what led to Monday’s game – Pritchard’s first signature performance – where Stevens stuck with him at the point for 32 of the game’s 48 minutes, including all 12 in the final frame.
Payton Pritchard’s Rare Rookie Performance Joins Boston Celtics Legend Larry Bird In Exclusive Group
Payton also wrote his name in Boston’s franchise history books, becoming the only Celtics rookie besides NBA legend Larry Bird to have a 23-point, 8-assist performance in the first half of their rookie campaign. According to Celtics Radio play-by-play broadcaster Sean Grande, no other Celtics player has had such a performance so close to the start of their NBA career in over 40 years.
It’s quite a feat for a first-round selection that passed by 25 times in the 2020 NBA Draft before the Celtics took him at No. 26. Still, as Stevens pointed out after Monday’s 126-114 win over the Raptors, it’s really, really early.
At this point in the season, Brad is just hoping for consistency as the year progresses and continues to unfold.
“He’s a competitive guy,” Stevens said after Monday’s win. “Two nights ago, he didn’t have any points, right? He played 16 minutes. Tonight, against a really good team with really good guards, really good defense, was able to find a little bit of rhythm and really play well – I think that that’s sometimes the rookie experience. He’s had more good nights, for sure than not and we’re going to ask him to do a lot, right now.
“Fair or unfair to him, he’s going to have to be consistent for us, for us to have a good team.”