The NBA Summer League is a place for young, budding stars to prove their worth. While the league is usually for rookies to try to impress and make a roster, some sophomores utilize the tournament to refine their skills.
For the Celtics, sophomore guard Payton Pritchard is that guy.
In the Celtics’ first game, an 85-83 victory over the Hawks, Pritchard was the star of the show. The guard was not afraid of the moment, putting up 15 three-pointers, making seven of them. Pritchard led all scorers with 23 points and nailed an important deep ball in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
It’s no surprise that Pritchard was the top option and played a majority of the minutes. At the basic level, Summer League will be a good opportunity for the guard to gain more experience and learn how to be a leader. However, it seems like Pritchard is learning more than just that.
Celtics Summer League coach Joe Mazzulla said the first game was a great opportunity to teach Pritchard about “situational basketball.”
“He just told me like last-minute, end-of-the-game, that’s where the point guards are made, that’s where point guards separate themselves in those moments,” Pritchard said (via MassLive). “So for me, I’ve played in a lot of games, late situations.”
At Oregon, Pritchard was the top dog. In the NBA, though, he is a role player. So, with the Celtics in the regular season, Pritchard doesn’t get many late game opportunities. The Summer League is providing him a chance to take the late shot, to learn and to improve those situational decision-making skills.
“Payton is a great competitor, he’s a great player,” Mazzulla said. “What we were looking for from him was to just be himself and make people around him better. I thought he did a great job controlling the game.”
It’s only been one game, but Summer League has already proven worth it for Pritchard. He’s had opportunities that he wouldn’t normally have, and he’s improving his game.
“Just shooting off the pick-and-roll, shooting in a different variety of ways,” Pritchard said. “Just adding that. As the games go on, just getting into the paint now. It’s the first game so our wind was not the same and stuff like that. There’s always stuff to improve on.”
Pritchard and the Summer League Celtics are 2-0 so far, and are back in action Thursday taking on the Magic at 7 p.m.