Payton Pritchard fully realizes his role is going to vary, his playing time is going to fluctuate, and his opportunities will come inconsistently.
He has to flourish when he’s on the floor to earn more playing time. It’s not his desired role but when the club upgraded its roster in the offseason, Pritchard was pushed down the rotation.
Pritchard has provided a big spark for the Celtics of late, helping spur a rally Friday against the Sacramento Kings, making an impact on both ends. And he has become a fan favorite because of his production and sacrifice.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to be appreciated,” he said. “But I think for me, any time I get an opportunity right now I got to go out and give my all on both ends of the court, affect the game, especially the games we’re lacking energy.”
Pritchard’s role was sizable as a rookie under Brad Stevens two years ago but his minutes dipped last season under Ime Udoka although he finished the season shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. With the acquisition of Malcolm Brogdon, Pritchard’s minutes have decreased even further. He has DNP-coach’s decision in eight of the first 21 games.
“When [the team] needs the energy, you go out there and got nothing to lose at that point,” Pritchard said. “I’m OK with failing and missing shots. That’s OK. You definitely improve the most by playing game reps. But sometimes I don’t have that available. So I got to get it in practice, get it in shootaround, but disciplined in all areas of my life to keep improving.”
Pritchard realizes the NBA is a business and his long-term future may not be in Boston. He will be eligible for a rookie extension next summer and 40 percent 3-point shooters are valuable on the market.
“There’s 29 other teams always watching,” he said. “So I think you’ve got to always be ready. You never know what could happen. You could be traded tomorrow. You could play tomorrow when someone gets hurt. It’s just keeping my mind set at all times, not saying I’m going to be happy with my situation but being a good teammate, being professional and being better.”
Center Robert Williams, who has missed the first 21 games following September knee surgery, was scrimmaging Wednesday during Celtics shootaround. The Celtics have not given a timetable on a potential Williams return, but he was expected to miss 8 to 12 weeks when the surgery was reported.
The Celtics are expected to be cautious with Williams’s recovery and the timetable has likely been pushed back because of the team’s 17-4 start without him.
“He’s getting stronger,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “He’s doing a great job. The staff is going a great job making sure he’s getting into game shape and mentally making sure he feels comfortable. It’s about making sure physically he’s good and just making sure his conditioning is right.”
Williams missed time last April after tearing his meniscus in his left knee but returned for the NBA Finals, although at less than 100 percent. This surgery was on the same knee. Williams has been more visible around the team in recent weeks.
Jaylen Brown returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets with neck soreness. Jayson Tatum, who sat out Sunday’s win over Washington, was not on the injury report with his sprained ankle. Al Horford returned to the lineup after sitting out the second game of a back-to-back set for the third time with back soreness. It’s uncertain if Horford would be available Monday in Toronto, the Celtics’ next back-to-back.
The Miami Heat have been decimated with injuries, with former All-Star Jimmy Butler out with knee soreness along with backup center Dewayne Dedmon. Victor Oladipo, who played a big role in the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics, was also ruled out for both games in Boston in addition to Miami’s next road trip. He has not played this season. Gabe Vincent, a career 45.5 percent 3-point shooter against the Celtics, was listed as questionable along with sharpshooter Duncan Robinson and rookie Nikola Jovic. Vincent and Robinson made first-quarter appearances.