NBA

Payton Pritchard returning to Oregon as an established NBA player

NBA

For the first time in his NBA career, Payton Pritchard will be playing in the state of Oregon.

The former Ducks star will travel with the Boston Celtics to take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. In a clash of teams jockeying for playoff positioning, the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft will be looking to have an impact as a scorer off the bench for the Celtics.

So far for Boston, Pritchard has done better than expected and has earned a larger role than No. 14 overall pick Aaron Nesmith. In 48 games, Pritchard has averaged 6.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 18.8 minutes of action.

The Celtics rookie discussed what it has been like being back in the state of Oregon following Tuesday’s shootaround.

It’s great being back home, being back in my home state.

Payton Pritchard

“I played here definitely over 15 times, I would say through high school and college,” the West Linn High School alum said of playing at Moda Center.

Pritchard began the year as Boston's de facto sixth man, and had praise heaped on him early in his career (he was called the "G.O.A.T." and was compared to Stephen Curry, after all). He also demonstrated a knack for the clutch and hit a game-winning shot with 0.2 seconds left on the clock against the Miami Heat.

 

The most impressive thing about that shot? It came in just the ninth game of Pritchard's career.

While the emergence of Robert Williams and the Celtics' trade for Evan Fournier has pushed him down the depth chart a little bit, Pritchard has still answered the call as a key distributor and 3-point shooter off the bench. He certainly hasn't hit any rookie wall.

Currently, Pritchard is tied for 36th in the NBA in 3-point percentage among qualified players. That puts him in the top 25 percent of shooters league-wide. He also had a couple of 20-point games, including one against the Raptors where he made six shots from behind the arc.

In general, Pritchard's shooting form has never looked better.

While he's not quite on the 50/40/90 percent he was on, he has exceeded expectations as a scorer. As a passer, he has done well too, especially when working in tandem with Williams.

With no fans allowed in Moda Center so far this season, Pritchard won’t be able to have family or friends at Tuesday’s game.

But he believes the first time he comes back to play when fans are in the arena it will be “crazy.”

Tuesday night will also give Pritchard a chance to play against Damian Lillard, a player he has respected and admired for years. 

Growing up watching Dame and being around him some, is just somebody to look up to and what a great role model on and off the court… Just a person that I look up to.

Payton Pritchard

And despite his smaller stature, Pritchard has held up well on the defensive end, as this highlight from NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg showcases.

Pritchard showing off these skills won't come as much of a surprise to Ducks fans. Nonetheless, the do-it-all playmaker appears to have won himself a long-term role with the Celtics.

And even despite his success, Pritchard is still hoping for more. As he voiced in a mid-March interview, he's staying hungry and will be looking to continue to improve despite his fast scoring start.

To be honest, I'm just going to have a chip on my shoulder regardless. That's how I've always been my whole life.

Payton Pritchard

That chip certainly led him to have success with the Ducks and seems to have carried over to the NBA with the Celtics.

Back in Oregon, Pritchard should be extra motivated to put up a strong performance where his basketball career began. Expect him to be at his best as he returns to the west coast. It will be on the Trail Blazers to slow him down off the bench.

 

“I just remember when I was a little kid, I used to watch Blazers games with my parents and I remember telling them – I’ll be playing here one day. So just to finally be at this moment is unbelievable. Like I’ve said before, I’ve had success in this gym so hopefully it continues.”