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Celtics’ Payton Pritchard pays overseas players to guard him for practice

Payton Pritchard has a new four-year contract extension and what appears to be a coveted rotation spot waiting for him come the regular season. Of course, a consistent role wasn’t just given to him.

Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) drives against Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)AP


Payton Pritchard


But with the front office shaking up the roster — trading away Malcolm Brogdon and Marcus Smart this summer — the Celtics need Pritchard to be a contributor. The early returns have impressed as Pritchard has been the Celtics’ preseason MVP thus far, scoring in bunches whenever he’s on the court.

It’s Pritchard’s work ethic, though, that has been commended by those within the Celtics organization. He’s been a pro, they say, even when minutes weren’t available as Pritchard sharpened his game behind the scenes. The fourth-year guard revealed one of his training regimens in an appearance on the “B Scar TV Podcast,” where he gets some much-needed reps.

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“I pay some of my homeboys, the ones that play overseas and stuff, I’ll pay them for the week to come out, and all they have to do is just guard me,” Pritchard said. “So I’ll put them up in a little spot with where I’m at and pay them for a week.”

Pritchard said they’ll play games to five where his opposition need to get a certain amount of stops — “they ain’t winning much,” he added. That adds up to 300-500 possessions, Pritchard said. But there’s a lot of value of getting those live repetitions against pro basketball players. While he can try out new moves during workouts, executing against real pressure is a different issue.

The method appears to have worked early on through three preseason games. While shooting has never been Pritchard’s issue — that skill translated to the NBA almost immediately — he’s still improving other parts of his game. It’s still very early in the season, but Pritchard has shown a few new moves going toward the bucket as he expands his game.

Those are all positive signs for the Celtics, who will gladly take an improved, hungry Pritchard. It was just at last year’s trade deadline when he asked to be moved for a larger opportunity. Instead, he figures to be a big part of the rotation going forward with a long-term deal already secured.

“That’s been really good for me,” Pritchard said. “Having people to like spar with. It’s different when you have a live defender. As much as I can practice a move, my body movement might be different when I’m feeling the momentum of him and the contact and the angles change slightly. I always do that now: have people come and compete with me.”

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