BOSTON — Teammates lauded Payton Pritchard’s professionalism and preparedness while acknowledging the difficult spot the team placed him in entering this season. The NBA Finals contributor and seventh-longest tenured Celtic fell out of the rotation after the Malcolm Brogdon trade.
Pritchard hoped for a consistent role in his June exit interview and received the opposite. He didn’t play in seven of Boston’s first 10 games. Then, he averaged 16.3 minutes for five games while shooting 52.9%. Those swings continued throughout the first half of the schedule, and despite handling them admirably, Pritchard revealed in a Point Forward Podcast appearance with Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala that he shared his desire for a larger role with the Celtics.
“After I’m done here, after this year, I’d like to be part of a bigger role a little bit,” Pritchard said when asked to predict his next 5-10 years. “I definitely do, it’s obviously what I worked for. I think that’s what Brad and them know too, we’ve had that discussion, but a bigger role. I want to be part of a winning culture but I want to also help that, be a really big piece of that. I’m not saying it’s the best player on the team but I don’t know what my future holds unless I can take that next step.”
The request added a new layer to the already-difficult decision for Boston’s front office entering the deadline. Pritchard proved an important piece of the Celtics’ depth beginning the season through injuries to Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon. When all three played, Pritchard rarely did, and his standout performances against Brooklyn and Toronto earlier this month reportedly generated interest in the guard from rival teams.
Pritchard is signed for one more season at $4.0-million and Jayson Tatum praised the guard’s efforts and importance to the team last week in Orlando. As Pritchard discussed the trade deadline and his season with CLNS Media/CelticsBlog before Saturday’s game, Al Horford entered the locker room and overheard the question about Pritchard’s future.
“We ain’t worried about that,” Horford said. “We ain’t worried about that. Don’t ask that.”
Pritchard revealed he’s letting his agent Greg Lawrence handle his future in the conversation. Pritchard sees any potential move as outside of his control, and he’ll let whatever happens happen and believes he’ll be, fine regardless.
The Celtics don’t enter the deadline with significant needs, decreasing the likelihood Pritchard would be included in a trade. Teams may want him, but whether they’d sway Boston with an offer is another story. It’s also unclear if the Celtics could acquire a better player in return by dealing Pritchard as a centerpiece, since they’re limited to offering draft picks in 2025 and beyond after dealing their 2023 first-rounder for Brogdon.
Boston will consider everything when it comes to Pritchard as the front office turns its full attention toward trade deadline this week. They like him, what he’s added to the team and he’ll likely remain in the rotation through the deadline while Smart takes his time returning from an ankle sprain.
The Celtics aren’t focused on sustaining regular season success though. The question they’ll need to ask is whether Pritchard can help them in their pursuit of a championship, or whether they plan to sit him. He credited teammate and long-time friend Blake Griffin for helping him handle that uncertainty.
Griffin hosted Pritchard at a Clippers-Blazers game as an Oklahoma recruit, and joked earlier this season he must’ve not done a good job, since Pritchard de-committed shortly after. He’s remained in the guard’s ear throughout this season on the bench and in the locker room, where their lockers are positioned next to each other — for now.
“(Griffin told me) just always stay engaged and ready,” Pritchard told CLNS Media/CelticsBlog. “Sometimes you’re in and out of the lineup, and you feel like you could be other places playing or whatever. As a competitor, you want to always play, but having somebody to always be in your ear, ‘keep working, keep grinding every day and your time will come,’ helps a lot, because a lot of guys don’t have that and then they’ll be like, you miss a few days and you go downhill mentally and it spirals.”
“For my work side of things, it never changes. I work hard all the time, I stay with my routine, but obviously if you don’t play, you scrimmage on off days, play ones, do that kind of stuff, but for me, my routine, I try not to change no matter if I’m playing or not playing, I’m continuing to work on my game always.”