BOSTON — Teammates have praised Payton Pritchard’s professionalism and preparation while acknowledging the difficult situation the team has placed him in this season. The NBA Finals contributor and seventh oldest Celtic holder fell out of rotation after Malcolm Brogdon was traded.
Pritchard was hoping for a consistent role in his June exit interview and received the opposite. He hasn’t played in seven of Boston’s first 10 games. Then he averaged 16.3 minutes for five games while shooting 52.9%. These swings continued throughout the first half of the program, and despite their excellent management, Pritchard revealed in Point Forward podcast appearance with Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala that he shared his desire for a bigger role with the Celtics.
“After I’m done here, after this year, I’d like to be part of a bit bigger role,” Pritchard said when asked to predict his next 5-10 years. “I definitely do, that’s obviously what I worked for. I think that’s what Brad and they also know, we had this discussion, but a bigger role. I want to be part of a winning culture, but I also want to help it, be a very big part of it. I’m not saying he’s the best player on the team, but I don’t know what my future holds unless I can take the next step.
The request added a new layer to the already difficult decision for Boston’s front office to enter the deadline. Pritchard proved to be an important part of the Celtics‘ depth at the start of the season thanks to injuries to Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon. When all three have played, Pritchard has rarely done so, and his standout performances against Brooklyn and Toronto earlier this month have reportedly sparked interest from rival teams for custody.
Pritchard is signed for one more season at $4.0 million and Jayson Tatum praised the guard’s efforts and his importance to the team last week in Orlando. As Pritchard discussed the trade deadline and his season with CLNS Media/CelticsBlog before Saturday’s gameAl Horford walked into the locker room and heard the question about Pritchard’s future.
“We’re not worried about that,” Horford said. “We are not worried about it. Don’t ask that.
Pritchard revealed he let his agent Greg Lawrence handle his future in conversation. Pritchard sees any potential move as out of his control, and he’ll let whatever happens happen and thinks it will, no matter what.
The Celtics don’t come into the deadline with big needs, which lessens the likelihood that Pritchard will be included in a trade. Teams may want it, but whether they sway Boston with an offer is another story. It’s also unclear whether the Celtics could acquire a better player in return by treating Pritchard as a centerpiece, as they’re limited to offering draft picks in 2025 and beyond after handing out their 2023 first-rounder to Brogdon.
Boston will consider everything about Pritchard as the front office turns its full attention to the trade deadline this week. They love him, what he’s added to the squad and he’ll likely stay in the rotation until the deadline while Smart takes his time coming back from a sprained ankle.
The Celtics are not focused on maintaining regular season success, however. The question they will have to ask themselves is if Pritchard can help them in their pursuit of a championship or if they plan to sit him down. He credited longtime teammate and friend Blake Griffin for helping him deal with the uncertainty.
Griffin hosted Pritchard in a Clippers-Blazers game as an Oklahoma rookie, and joked earlier this season he must not have done a good job, as Pritchard opted out soon after. He’s been on the guard’s ear all season long on the bench and in the locker room, where their lockers are positioned next to each other – for now.
“(Griffin told me) always stay engaged and ready,” Pritchard said. CLNS Media/CelticsBlog. “Sometimes you’re in and out of the lineup, and you feel like you could play somewhere else or whatever. As a competitor you always want to play, but having someone to always be on your side, “keep working, keep working every day and your time will come” helps a lot, because a lot of guys don’t have not that and then they’ll be like, you miss a few days and you mentally go down and it spirals.
“For my work side, it never changes. I work hard all the time, I stay with my routine, but obviously if you don’t play, you scrimmage on days off, you play, you do that kind of stuff, but for me, my routine, I try not to change no matter if I play or not, I always continue to work on my game.