Payton Pritchard

Celtics Notes: Porzingis, Pritchard, White, Holiday, Brown

Kristaps Porzingis conducted a light workout on the court on Monday morning, according to Brian Robb of MassLive.com. However, the Celtics big man will miss his sixth consecutive game on Wednesday as he works his way back from a right calf strain, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. The Celtics can advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 5 victory over the Cavaliers.

“It’s always great to have him around and we know he’s doing everything he can to get back as quickly and safely as possible,” Derrick White told Robb.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Backup guard Payton Pritchard, who signed a four-year, $30MM rookie scale extension in October, has scored in double digits in three of the four games against Cleveland. He delivered 11 points in 26 minutes on Monday, including a pivotal 3-pointer late in the third quarter. With just five turnovers in four games, Pritchard has also been a steady ball-handling presence in the backcourt, Robb notes. “I thought Payton’s confidence, and becoming a really good two-way player, just affecting the game both offensively and defensively,” coach Joe Mazzulla said.
  • With Cavs star guard Donovan Mitchell sidelined in Game 4, the Celtics guards focused their attention on Darius Garland, Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes. Though Garland scored 30 points, he needed to take 27 shots to reach that figure with White and Jrue Holiday guarding him. “I’m just thankful those guys are on our team,” Jayson Tatum said of Holiday and White. “The intangible things they do on the defensive end night in and night out, whether it’s chasing shooters around, or fighting through screens, or coming over the top and contesting shots. They do it however long they’re in the game. They’re really the anchor of our defense.”
  • Jaylen Brown is averaging 26.5 points per game in the series, including a 27-point output in Game 4. He wasn’t bashful when discussing his offensive prowess during the series, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets. “I don’t think anybody over there can really guard me,” he said.

Celtics Notes: Porzingis, Kornet, Free Agency, Pritchard

There’s still no timetable for Kristaps Porzingis to return from the right soleus (calf) strain that knocked him out of the Celtics‘ first-round series, but he’s optimistic that he’ll be back at some point in the playoffs, according to Jared Weiss and Jay King of The Athletic. Addressing reporters Saturday for the first time since the injury, Porzingis said he’s hoping to recover at a “historic rate.”

“It’s something; it’s not nothing. So it will take a little bit of time, for sure,” he said. “But I’m doing everything I can to speed it up because I want to be back out there as soon as possible. But, understanding like, the worst thing would be like probably to re-aggravate that. So being smart.”

Weiss and King talked to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Kharrazi, who said the Grade 2 strain that Porzingis suffered usually comes with a two- to three-week prognosis for recovery. That means there’s a decent chance Porzingis could be ready for the Eastern Conference finals if Boston gets there.

Porzingis said he’s been aggressive in the rehab process and explained that the injury occurred when he stepped on Tyler Herro‘s foot while chasing a rebound and rolled his left ankle. He began compensating with the other leg and felt the strain.

“You saw my reaction on the court. Then once we got the diagnosis, I calmed down,” Porziņģis said. “It looks like it’s not as bad as I initially thought. Yeah, it is what it is. Nobody wants to get hurt. But at least it’s like not as bad as it could’ve been.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman and Neemias Queta will likely see their roles expanded in the second round with Porzingis unavailable, notes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Kornet, who’s expected to be the first big man off the bench against either Cleveland or Orlando, said Porzingis is helping to inspire his teammates while he’s out of action. “He’s staying engaged and as we’re going through practice, he’s always there paying attention, and also he’s just a great connective type of guy,” Kornet said. “So I feel like his energy in here, in the weight room, kind of remains consistent throughout. Just a great part of being engaged and right now he needs to prepare himself for when he is available and then also just for our group to stay locked in day-to-day.”
  • In a mailbag column, Brian Robb of MassLive projects Kornet to return to the Celtics on a team-friendly contract – probably a multiyear deal – next season. Robb notes that keeping the free agent big man will be a priority to help ease the burden on veteran center/power forward Al Horford.
  • Payton Pritchard often felt like an outsider during the Celtics’ playoff run last season with little playing time available in a veteran backcourt, Weiss adds in a separate story. Pritchard has become a valuable offensive spark off the bench and is relieved that the “dark days” are now behind him. “I think that’s really what it comes down to, all the work, the hours I’ve put in it’s just built confidence,” he said. “Now I just feel like I can go against anybody.”

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Nurse, Pritchard, Robinson

The Sixers avoided a potential disaster Friday night on their way to a seventh straight win, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Joel Embiid, playing for the fifth time since returning from meniscus surgery, was limping and grabbing his knee after making a shot late in the second quarter. He walked to the locker room to have it examined and was able to return for the start of the second half.

“They assessed him at halftime and there was no swelling, no damage, none of that kind of stuff,” coach Nick Nurse told reporters after the game (video link). “… They said he should be OK to try it, and he wanted to try the second half and it was OK. We’ll have to again, just like we do everybody in every game, assess it again tomorrow morning and see what happens.”

Nurse said the knee responded “good” overnight and Embiid was able to participate in a light practice Saturday in preparation for the season finale against Brooklyn, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He’s listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers face several playoff scenarios heading into Sunday, but Nurse said that won’t have any effect on his coaching strategy, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Nurse is more concerned with establishing a rhythm heading into the postseason than trying to create a favorable matchup.
  • With the Celtics resting their starters Friday, Payton Pritchard responded with the best night of his career, notes Brian Robb of MassLive. Pritchard posted 31 points and 11 assists, making him the first Celtic since Larry Bird to reach those numbers in 31 minutes or fewer. This is the first season that playing time hasn’t been an issue for Pritchard, and he’s seizing the opportunity. “For any player, you get spot minutes, it’s tough,” he said. “You don’t know when it’s gonna come. When you do get minutes, like what is your role out there? What are you being put out there for? I think in the past, a lot of the time it wasn’t necessarily for me to be like a point guard or even like a playmaker. It was really to try to come in and hit some threes and bring energy defensively, rebounding, stuff like that. I think my role has definitely grown a little bit this year. With that, I’ve grown and been better at playmaking. But just making the game easier for myself, but also my teammates.”
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson was able to play the entire fourth quarter Friday, which is a significant milestone in his return from ankle surgery, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. “Mitch makes plays that no one else can just in terms of impacting shots, pick-and-roll coverage,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So I thought he was terrific. Mitch can cover a lot of ground and I thought that was huge for us.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Jeffries, Diakite, Walker, Dinwiddie

The Celtics’ bench has turned into a strength during their current hot streak, Jay King of The Athletic writes.

Over the last nine games, Payton Pritchard has averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 47.0% from the field. Meanwhile, Sam Hauser has made 21 three-pointers over his past three games entering Monday’s action. Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman and Oshae Brissett have also delivered impactful performances.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • DaQuan Jeffries’ contract with the Knicks, which he signed on Monday, runs through the end of this season with a team option for 2024/25, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Mamadi Diakite’s contract with the Knicks, also signed on Monday, runs through next season too, but the 2024/25 salary is non-guaranteed rather than a team option, Katz adds (Twitter link).
  • Lonnie Walker‘s minutes have dropped since Kevin Ollie was named the Nets’ interim coach but he’s trying to keep a positive attitude, according to NetsDaily.com. “I don’t think it negatively affects me. You might have your ups and downs, your days where you might not feel as much,” Walker said. “But for the most part, I got a great family around me that really supports me and I understand that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Walker will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie was given very little leeway by former Nets coach Jacque Vaughn before he was dealt and later joined the Lakers, according to Shams Charania. Speaking on the Run It Back program (video link), Charania said Dinwiddie “was essentially told in Brooklyn: No pick and rolls, no isolations.”

Celtics Notes: Holiday, Hauser, Pritchard, White

Boston has all but secured the No. 1 seed in the East, holding an 11-game lead on second-place Milwaukee with 12 games left on the team’s schedule.

As Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe writes (subscription required), the Celtics have been resting some of their top players over the past week to be cautious — for example, Jayson Tatum missed Friday’s game vs. Detroit with what was officially called a right ankle impingement, but there’s no indication it’s anything serious.

However, veteran guard Jrue Holiday, who missed his third straight game on Friday with a sprained right AC joint in his shoulder, does not fall into that category. Holiday tells Himmelsbach he’s been experiencing “dead arm” following a hard screen from Wizards center Richaun Holmes last Sunday (Twitter video link).

The two-time All-Star has been getting treatment for the injury, which requires rest to heal, per Himmelsbach. While Holiday says he’s starting to feel better, there’s no timeline for his return. Despite the team’s sizeable lead in the standings, he’s eager to get back on the court.

I still want to play,” Holiday said. “That’s part of the reason I play basketball. But it’s also keeping rhythm. Sometimes when you’re out for a long time you break rhythm, but I feel like I’ve been in a good groove and I want to continue to play.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Backup forward Sam Hauser missed a couple games with an ankle sprain he sustained vs. Washington, but he returned to action in Friday’s victory, Himmelsbach adds in the same story. The third-year sharpshooter says he was relieved the injury wasn’t more serious. “It didn’t feel great, that’s for sure,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect or how it was going to feel in the days to come, but it’s felt pretty good throughout the week.”
  • Giving Payton Pritchard a four-year, $30MM rookie scale extension last offseason is looking like a shrewd decision by the Celtics, according to Brian Robb of MassLive, who says the fourth-year guard has outperformed that deal this season, though the extension doesn’t begin until 2024/25. “Payton’s been great, and I’m not surprised, to be honest,” Jaylen Brown said. “Some guys just got a certain mentality they carry themselves with. Payton is somebody you don’t worry about. Even in the lowest of times he’s a hard worker and his mindset is phenomenal in terms of a relentless, never-give-up warrior-type mentality. So you put him out there, I’m not surprised at anything we’re seeing now. It’s just now the work is coming to fruition.” Pritchard has been logging major minutes of late with Holiday injured and is arguably playing his best basketball of the season.
  • Guard Derrick White met the 65-game criteria for postseason awards on Friday, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. White earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team in 2022/23 and is having another excellent campaign. White has three pending bonuses, Marks notes — the 29-year-old will earn $250K if he makes another All-Defensive team, $500K if he makes at least 185 threes (he’s currently at 172), and $500K if he appears in 70 games.
  • Robb of MassLive lists four takeaways from Friday’s blowout victory, including a big night for Brown, who finished with 33 points on 13-of-19 shooting.

Celtics Notes: Hauser, Pritchard, Tatum, Porzingis

Celtics forward Sam Hauser appears to have escaped serious injury after stepping on the foot of a Wizards player during Sunday’s game, a source tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. X-rays on Hauser’s left ankle came back negative, according to Himmelsbach’s source. His status for tonight’s game against Detroit hasn’t been determined, but he isn’t expected to be out of action long.

Hauser was on the verge of a historic night when the injury occurred early in the third quarter. He was 10-of-13 from beyond the arc, leaving him one short of the franchise record for three-pointers in a game and four away from Klay Thompson‘s league mark. Coach Joe Mazzulla recognizes what a dangerous shooter he has in Hauser, who’s connecting at 43.2% from long distance this season and is typically one of the team’s most durable players, writes Brian Robb of MassLive.

“I loved his confidence, loved his aggressiveness, loved how guys look for him and I love how he got his shots within the flow of our execution,” Mazzulla said. “And that’s the weapon that he is, his ability to just put two on the ball, his ability to create open shots for himself and for other people, so it was fun to watch him shoot him. It was fun to watch his guys look for him.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Payton Pritchard registered his first double-double of the season, posting 14 points and 13 assists in the win over Washington, notes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Pritchard was vocal about his lack of playing time last season, but he has settled into a regular reserve role after signing a four-year extension last summer. “I think Payton really, amongst our season, has been kind of underrated and the growth that he’s had as a player,” Mazzulla said. “His ability to play with the ball, his ability to play without the ball. He’s finding ways without scoring to highly impact the game, whether it’s his assists or with his defense or his rebounding.”
  • With the top seed in the East all but wrapped up, the Celtics will likely rest their stars a little over the last month of the season, but it won’t be easy to convince Jayson Tatum to go along with that plan, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (video link). “I’ve been here seven years. They understand kind of what they’re dealing with,” Tatum said. “I don’t like to sit out. I understand if I was injured or whatever, but I said it before, I just love to play the game.”
  • Wizards interim coach Brian Keefe is impressed by the development of Kristaps Porzingis, Himmelsbach adds in a separate piece. Keefe was with the Knicks when they drafted Porzingis in 2014 and was tasked with helping him get ready for the NBA. Keefe also coached him last season as an assistant in Washington. “He’s grown tremendously,” Keefe said. “This is kind of what we probably all envisioned when we first had him. The guy was so versatile, could play multiple different positions inside and outside. I’m thrilled that he’s having a great year this year.” Porzingis missed his fifth straight game Sunday due to hamstring soreness, but he worked out on the court prior to the game and may return to action tonight.

Atlantic Notes: Achiuwa, Hart, Anunoby, Porzingis, Celtics

Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa has impressed in the midst of several injuries to key players like Julius Randle, starting 18 straight games and averaging 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per night. He returned to the bench as the team got healthier on Tuesday, but remained productive, registering 12 points, eight boards and two blocks against Philadelphia.

As observed by Newsday’s Steve Popper (subscriber link) and as we previously noted, it’s been a pleasant homecoming for Achiuwa, who moved to New York from Nigeria in eighth grade and played some high school ball there.

It was a very, very cool moment for me,” Achiuwa said. “Inner city kid, growing up in the city, of course, hearing about the Knicks, seeing the games and stuff. Now, being able to represent the city on that platform is really huge. Seeing how the city accepted me and just me being there in that particular moment was very nostalgic in a way. It was a crazy moment for sure.

This is the best I’ve played in a really really long time.

While Achiuwa’s play is exciting, Stefan Bondy of the New York Post writes New York may soon have a difficult decision to make. Achiuwa’s a restricted free agent this offseason and while his current projected $8-10MM valuation is more than reasonable for his production, Mitchell Robinson, due $14.3MM next season, is under contract. Additionally, Isaiah Hartenstein, who has taken over the starting job in the wake of Robinson’s injury, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Assuming the Knicks re-sign OG Anunoby, bringing back both Hartenstein – who could get a contract with an annual value around $13-14MM – and Achiuwa would send New York into the luxury tax, Bondy observes. While those salary projections seem safe for now, Bondy writes, it’s possible each Hartenstein and Achiuwa get more money than expected in a relatively weak frontcourt free agent class.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau defied his own trend of playing one lead guard, two wings, a power forward and a center when he transitioned to a position-less lineup in Anunoby’s return, Bondy writes in a member-only New York Post article. As Bondy observes, Anunoby played alongside Josh Hart in the starting lineup, and that duo has the NBA’s best net rating among two players with at least 241 minutes together (+37.7). “I like that versatility, and we thought that was one of the big reasons why we wanted OG, was what he would bring to the team,” Thibodeau said. “So I think it’s a huge plus for us.
  • Kristaps Porzingis missed his fourth straight game for the Celtics on Thursday, but head coach Joe Mazzulla gave a promising update on the star before the game, according to MassLive’s Brian Robb. “He’s progressing well,” Mazzulla said. “He was on the court today earlier, just working out with the guys. Don’t have an official timeline, but he’s getting better and better.
  • Boston’s starters have gotten plenty of credit for the Celtics‘ success this season, but the bench has played a pivotal, yet understated role this year, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. The bench unit including Sam Hauser, Payton Pritchard and Luke Kornet have outscored opponents by 219 points on the year, the best in the NBA. In-season addition Xavier Tillman has also been a key contributor as of late.
  • In case you missed it, the Sixers are signing Kai Jones to a 10-day contract. Get the details here.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Griffin, Sixers, Trent, Raptors

After appearing in 41 games for the Celtics last season, Blake Griffin hasn’t been on an NBA roster at all in 2023/24. However, if it were up to the Celtics’ players, Griffin would still be in Boston.

As Brian Robb of MassLive.com writes, guards Derrick White and Payton Pritchard said during an appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast that several Celtics players tried to get Griffin to sign with the team earlier in the ’23/24 league year.

“I think the whole team has been begging him to,” White said.

“I texted him actually a week ago or two jokingly being like, ‘Coming back for one last ride?'” Pritchard added. “He says he’s enjoying his life.”

According to Robb, multiple Celtics players reached out to Griffin during the team’s West Coast road trip in December to ask about a possible return. However, the six-time All-Star has opted to sit out this season to spend more time with his family, Robb writes.

“He told me at the end of last year that his family was the most important thing and I stopped talking to him about it,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said when asked on Monday about White’s and Pritchard’s comments about Griffin (Twitter link via Jared Weiss of The Athletic).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Celtics have held the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference for all but six days this season and appear highly likely to keep the top spot the rest of the way, according to Jay King of The Athletic, who explores whether any conference rivals could realistically catch Boston. The Celtics have a 7.5-game lead on the No. 2 Cavaliers, with just 25 games left to play.
  • With Joel Embiid unavailable and players in and out of the rotation this month due to injuries and trade-deadline moves, the Sixers have struggled to find a rhythm, losing nine of their past 13 games, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required). “There’s a lot of different combinations of guys,” head coach Nick Nurse said, “and we’re trying to make sure when we’re doing stuff that we can figure it out and get more on the same page. It’s just a bit disjointed at times when it gets tough.”
  • While Gary Trent Jr.‘s 41.4% three-point percentage is excellent, his season as a whole has still felt like a bit of a letdown, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who considers whether or not that assessment is fair and whether the Raptors will re-sign Trent, who is a free agent this summer. A multiyear offer worth somewhere between the mid-level exception and $20MM annually might be reasonable for the 25-year-old, Koreen suggests.
  • Zulfi Sheikh of Sportsnet.ca identifies six storylines to watch for the Raptors down the stretch this season, including whether the team actually has a shot at a play-in berth and RJ Barrett‘s progress in his first few months with his new team.

Celtics Notes: Trade Market, Tillman, Pritchard, Smart

After agreeing to acquire Xavier Tillman from Memphis in exchange for Lamar Stevens and a pair of second-round picks, the Celtics are likely to make another move before Thursday’s trade deadline, league sources tell Brian Robb of MassLive.com.

Although the Celtics aren’t exactly loaded with trade assets, they remain well positioned to make another smaller move. Boston still controls six future second-round picks, and sending Stevens to the Grizzlies meant the club didn’t have to touch its $6.2MM trade exception in the Tillman deal. The C’s also still have an open spot on their 15-man roster.

As Robb writes, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has been open about his desire to add more wing depth, and the fact that the team was willing to give up Stevens may signal that an addition at that spot is coming.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Souichi Terada of MassLive.com takes a look at the Celtics’ roster and depth chart after the Tillman trade and considers what might be next for the club.
  • Before news of the Tillman deal broke, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston previewed the trade deadline for the Celtics. While he acknowledged that a smaller move or two is most likely, Forsberg made the case that the front office should seriously explore the possibility of taking a bigger swing, given that Boston could have an opportunity to solidify its place as a title favorite. Forsberg named Alex Caruso and Deni Avdija as two players worth looking into.
  • After not being dealt at the 2023 trade deadline, Payton Pritchard admitted to being disappointed, since he didn’t have the kind of role he wanted in Boston. One year later, he’s averaging a career-high 20.8 minutes per night as a crucial part of the Celtics’ rotation after signing an extension in October. “It’s funny the difference a year will make,” Pritchard said this week, per Jay King of The Athletic. “At the end of the day, it was always the same thing. I wanted to be able to play and be able to play every game. And sweat out there. And really feel like I’m contributing. Fortunately enough, on this team, this year, I feel like I have a role to help the team win.”
  • Former Celtics guard Marcus Smart wasn’t available to play on Sunday when the Grizzlies visited Boston, but he got a tribute video and was showered with loving chants by the fans at TD Garden, as King writes at The Athletic. “I’m surprised he didn’t cry, because that was special,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “He was the fan favorite and everybody knew that. The way he played, he wore his heart on his sleeve and every night, he gave it his all. We have some very smart fans, right, and they saw that and they appreciated that. So, it was just really cool to see. I’m happy for him.”

Stein’s Latest: Kuzma, Mavs, Sexton, B. Brown, Celtics

Following up on a report from The Athletic which cited Wizards sources who suggested that the team’s asking price for Kyle Kuzma may be “somewhat overblown,” Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack story that the Washington forward is a trade candidate worth keeping a close eye on in the final week leading up to the February 8 trade deadline.

According to Stein, while the Kings and Mavericks are the suitors most frequently linked to Kuzma, there will likely be other suitors due to his “offensive versatility and favorable contract.” Kuzma is owed more than $64MM for the three seasons beyond this one, but his cap hits decline over the life of the deal, so he’ll count for just $19.4MM toward team salary by 2026/27.

Stein confirms that the Mavericks have consistently conveyed interest in Kuzma and notes that he’s not the only Wizards player Dallas has had its eye on. The team has also made previous runs at center Daniel Gafford and forward Deni Avdija, per Stein.

Here are a few more items of interest from Stein’s latest round-up of trade rumors:

  • While Jordan Clarkson, Kelly Olynyk, and Talen Horton-Tucker continue to be described as potential trade candidates, Collin Sexton may not belong in that group, according to Stein, who hears from league sources that the Jazz guard is a longer shot to be dealt. Sexton is playing some of the best basketball of his career in the 27 games since he entered Utah’s starting lineup in mid-December, averaging 21.6 points and 5.5 assists in 27.4 minutes per night, with a shooting line of .506/.420/.879.
  • The Raptors haven’t lowered their asking price for Bruce Brown and continue to seek a first-round pick for the veteran guard, Stein says. It’s typically difficult to extract a first-rounder for a role player on an expiring contract, but Brown does have a $23MM team option for 2024/25, so if a potential suitor views him as a two-season investment, it’s possible Toronto gets the draft pick it’s seeking.
  • The Celtics continue to peruse the trade market for a frontcourt addition, but they’re only willing to move players on “the most nominal contracts,” Stein writes. Outside of Boston’s usual starting five, Al Horford and Payton Pritchard are the only players earning more than the veteran’s minimum, so it sounds like those seven players will likely be off-limits.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along some Nets-related tidbits from Stein on Thursday evening.