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Celtics’ Jrue Holiday commends Payton Pritchard as a ‘natural bucket’

Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) during Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)AP

BOSTON — While the top of the Celtics’ roster meshes together throughout training camp, other role players are looking to solidify their spot in the rotation. That conversation starts with Payton Pritchard, who has been the team’s preseason MVP thus far through three games.

Pritchard is in line for a bigger role after Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon were dealt this summer. He’s also fresh off signing a four-year extension with the Celtics. While the fourth-year pro still has to earn his spot in Joe Mazzulla’s rotation, he hasn’t skipped out on working on his craft behind the scenes. New C’s teammate Jrue Holiday has already noticed that hard work.

“He’s fun,” Holiday said of Pritchard. “He can hoop. Just a natural bucket. The way that he plays is so easy. It looks like it just comes naturally to him. So always fun to watch him play. But playing with him, he’s great to play off of. Obviously the shooter that he is, he can either play off-ball or you play off the ball with him and he has the ball. Very versatile player.”

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Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, so he’s going to make life difficult for any of his teammates in practice. But he complimented Pritchard’s ability to still get up his shot despite Holiday having a few inches on him. There’s also the off-court mentorship as Pritchard, 25, can ask the 33-year-old Holiday anything related to basketball.

“Jrue is an unbelievable player,” Pritchard said. “So for me to have somebody like that that can learn so much from defensively, offensively, just how he attacks the game is incredible. So I’m definitely just going to be picking his brain a lot this year.”

Pritchard has averaged 21.3 points over the Celtics’ three preseason games, knocking down 41.9% of his 3-pointers. The shooting has always been there throughout his career, but the Oregon product has added to his game through the playmaking department at four assists per game. Pritchard said the game has slowed down for him, allowing him to see the court better as he slings passes across the court.

Those are all positive developments for the Celtics as they need Pritchard to step in as a contributor. The C’s traded away big parts of their depth this summer, landing Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis in the process. Those moves opened the door for Pritchard as he’s in line for arguably the largest role of his young career.

“For me, it’s just controlling what I can control and that’s showing up every day, getting my work in and attacking the minutes that I do get,” Pritchard said. “So defensively, offensively, whatever that is. That’s kind of where my head’s at. Whatever I get, I’m gonna go out and play hard, play aggressive and lay it all out.”