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Adjusting to the NBA can be daunting for rookies. Throw in a global pandemic in “Year One,” of your professional basketball career, and it can be an uphill battle.
But despite the pressure Boston Celtics rookie Payton Pritchard has faced thus far, the former Oregon standout is taking it all in stride.
In his first 18 appearances, the Celtics rising star averaged 8.4 points per game while shooting 49.5 from the floor and 46.9 from beyond the arc, but his production has since taken a dip since Pritchard missed time with a sprained knee. The 23-year-old has averaged 5.5 points per game, 35.4 percent shooting from the field, and just 17.9 percent from three-point range in the last 10 games.
While Pritchard has been in a rough shooting slump in recent games, he knows the best way to get back on track is to continue shooting with confidence.
“Everything is a new experience this year and that’s part of it,” he told Celtics.com reporter Taylor C. Snow. “I want to come out and hit a lot of shots, do a lot of great things, but I just have to stay with it, stay prepared and keep growing.”
On Tuesday night in the Celtics 117-112 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Pritchard took a leap over the rookie wall toward the right direction. He knocked down four of seven 3-pointers and shot 5-of-8 from the floor for 14 points, while adding three assists, two rebounds and one steal in 23 minutes.
Boston has won three-straight games and is 18-17, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The rookie sensation believes the Celtics chemistry has helped spark the team’s recent success.
“I think we’re jelling a little bit more and there’s more excitement,” Pritchard explained to Snow. “Everybody is trying to figure out how they’re going to help this team. We’ve had a lot of injuries this year because we haven’t had our full team, ever. That’s part of the NBA, but for us, it’s just to keep growing, keep jelling and will make a run at the end.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Pritchard has been getting acclimated to a 72-game season for the first time.
“It's really about how to mentally and physically take care of my body and prepare for each game,” he told Snow. “The NBA season is a grind. It's a lot of late nights, you fly in late, you got to play the next day, so it's finding ways to get up and actually physically and mentally prepare for that next game, and not be kind of tired and stuff like that. So, for me, that's been the biggest adjustment.”
As Pritchard continues to build his confidence, returning to his dominant form, the Celtics will look to the rookie to bring the offensive punch when his name is called off the bench. Pritchard will have his good days and he'll have his bad ones, too, but he'll always keep shooting.