BOSTON — Payton Pritchard is proving why he’s worth the investment after signing a long-term extension to stay in Boston hours before the Celtics’ first preseason game of 2023-24.
On a night when the Celtics’ newcomers Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday made their Boston debuts at TD Garden, Pritchard’s game-high 26 points, including six 3-pointers and four assists, stole the show. Singlehandedly outscoring the Philadelphia 76ers 13-10 in the final seven minutes, Pritchard led the Celtics to a 114-106 win in their first of five preseason tune-ups.
“What you saw tonight and what you’ll see throughout the years is his mindset, his professionalism to be prepared over the last three years,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said after Sunday’s win. “Guys like him, they get rewarded in some capacity, and as I said before, we’re going to rely on him to us another layer of toughness, another layer of physicality, another layer of playing with the right mindset.”
Pritchard and the Celtics agreed to a four-year, $30 million extension on Sunday. Securing Payton’s future in Boston for the foreseeable future as the Celtics lock in another player committed to their championship-chasing window.
Upon entering his fourth season, the final year of his rookie extension, Pritchard yearned for security. The Oregon product selected 28th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, fell out of Mazzulla’s rotation last season. His playing time was inconsistent. His role was unclear heading into training camp before everything changed in the final week of the offseason.
After trading starting point guard Marcus Smart in a three-team deal that brought Porzingis to help strengthen the Celtics’ frontcourt, team president of basketball operations Brad Stevens traded the second guard ahead of Payton on Mazzulla’s depth chart — Malcolm Brogdon — which opened up a path for the four-year guard. And while the opportunity came seemingly at the perfect time, merely days before the start of training camp, credit Pritchard for staying ready.
He spent the summer putting in the work — which he exemplified by scoring 26 points on 9-for-14 attempts, including 6-for-11 from deep, four assists, and one steal in 23 minutes.
“When I signed, it was almost a relief, a feeling of being secure, and that was kind of my mindset towards it,” Pritchard said Sunday. “I wanted to lock something in, so I wasn’t playing this year out.”
In July, he joined the USA Select Team. A group of NBA players picked to practice and scrimmaged against Team USA in Las Vegas this summer in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. Joining Detroit Pistons’ Cade Cunningham, Sacramento Kings’ Keegan Murray, and Oklahoma City Thunder duo Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, Pritchard played alongside a handful of young talented players.
They took on the likes of All-Star Anthony Edwards, 2023 Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, Brandon Ingram, and the rest of Team USA. This experience helped Pritchard in preparation for the upcoming season.
“I think it was a confidence booster. All the players there are top-level players. They’re stars of their team,” Pritchard said. “So, to go out there and compete with those guys to see where your game matches up was definitely a boost of confidence, and I believe in myself at a high level. So, I’ll continue to do that.”
Payton sees his role this season as everchanging. He is the second unit’s lynchpin in the backcourt, supplementing energy, high-level plays, and finding consistency in making his mark on the game.
“That changes night-to-night; whatever the teams needs,” Pritchard said when asked how he envisions his role in 2023-24. “Obviously, I can stretch the floor out and be able to hit threes, but I really try to hang my hat on the energy plays, and picking up, and little things like that to change the game. Obviously, we (have) unbelievable players, so scoring is not something we necessarily need. So, I have to find ways always to affect the game.”