Look, I’m going to level with you. I am not going to try to extrapolate the lessons from yesterday’s preseason loss—in which Dalano Banton, Payton Pritchard and Lamar Stevens led the team in minutes—to predict how the rest of the season will go. However, what I will do is tell you a story, one of the poetic tragedy of the Bus One Brigade.
The starting lineup last night was an absolute squadron of Pritchard and Banton, flanked by Sam Hauser, Oshae Brissett and Luke Kornet. It was exactly like if the Celtics had an away game against the Knicks, except if the Bus Two driver forgot to show up for work and the Celtics top-six players were stranded in Boston. I dub thee “The Bus One Brigade.”
Nothing quite speaks to the true nature of the Boston Celtics like a 12-man rotation of backups limping through the second night of a preseason back-to-back, something that should probably be outlawed by the next Geneva Convention. No matter. The Bus One Brigade laced ‘em up, locked in, and went to work.
The Knicks top three—Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson and R.J. Barrett—played sparse minutes but absolutely cooked the Bus One Brigade out of the gate. The Knicks went up big early, but the Celtics stormed back, actually taking the lead by the end of the first quarter.
The rest of the game was incredibly evenly matched, with the Bus One Brigade narrowly falling short of the victory. So, what should we—the NBC Sports Boston-subscribing populous committed to watching Celtics basketball, no matter the quality—take away from this game?
Well, we had Banton’s solid performance, Svi Mykhailiuk’s three-point range, Jordan Walsh’s defensive upside, and Sam Hauser missing a lot of threes. But if we’re being completely honest, it is very very unlikely any of these guys play real minutes throughout the year. Some people love that minutia, and I love that for them.
One guy might make an impact throughout the year though, though: the $30 million man, Pritchard.
I categorically refuse to overrate anything that happens in preseason games across all sports… however, what Pritchard has been doing through two outings puts a smile on my face. He was a certified gamer for a few Celtics teams that punched way above their weight, and no one does that better than Pritchard himself.
I’ve struggled to define his NBA identity, as he doesn’t do anything well enough to hang his hat on. He’s undersized, struggles to defend pick and rolls and isn’t the most athletic guy on the court. Most Celtics fans probably think of him as a momentum three-point shooter, but he hasn’t been able to keep his splits above 40 percent, so he’s not a usable heat-check guy.
So, what is he, since he’s apparently worth $30 million over four years? The answer requires us to revert to a primal understanding of basketball: he’s a bucket getter.
Pritchard operates on a very simple level: put ball in hoop. Of course, every NBA player is an expert at that at some level, but there is a certain kind of menace who drops 92 points in a Portland Pro-Am. He’s small, but he never let anybody tell him not to shoot the basketball.
Let’s use a personal example: I am 5’8”, but all my friends somehow happen to be 6’1” or taller. I play a fair amount of pick-up hoops, and absolutely suck most of the time. But for some reason, I’ve always loved post play and rebounding, and am liable to crash the glass harder than is physically safe to see if I can wrestle a board or two among the trees.
I should probably develop an outside shot and a deep bag of dribble moves to create space, since finishing inside isn’t the easiest thing for me to accomplish. Even so, my favorite move is an over-the-right-shoulder post hook. Call me a dad or call me Hakeem, but I never let anyone tell me I couldn’t put my head down and play in the paint.
Maybe this is a self-aggrandizing analogy, but Pritchard’s constant willingness to shoot the ball can be lethal if used correctly. I’m not convinced he’s an every night factor on this team, but he could shoot the Celtics out of a jam, simply because he’s totally unafraid to do so.
Or he could shoot them right out of a game, because he’s unafraid to do that too. Hopefully, we can all have the wisdom to know the difference.