Pointing to his growth as a player, Boston’s Payton Pritchard plans on returning to the NBA Finals with the Celtics

The Boston Celtics had something of a historic outlier of an NBA season, going from a team that struggled to stay above .500 to start their 2021-22 campaign to flipping a switch when 2022 arrived to play like the best team in the league to close out the season on their way to a Finals berth and two wins away from a title.

Over that stretch, second-year reserve guard Payton Pritchard managed to crack the team’s rotation after getting buried in the team’s backcourt as consolidatory deals at the 2022 NBA trade deadline opened space for the Oregon product to spread his wings. Pritchard opened up about the evolution of his role with the Celtics on Friday afternoon.

“This season’s probably been one of my biggest growths mentally,” said the West Linn native.

“Starting off the season, it was a different situation,” he explained. “I wasn’t playing at all for like the first 60 games, in and out and then the trade deadline happened and then I got an opportunity to play.”

“(We) carried out the season, we went to the championship and we made a good run, but for me personally, I’ve just got to be better next year, come in … and try to be the best shape of my life next year. I think it’s going to be a really important year for me. So I’m going to do everything in my power to be the best I can be to help the team.”

“I think everybody’s taking the same mindset and going into next year to try to make a statement and go back for it,” Pritchard suggested.

While Pritchard’s words might sound like the standard end-of-season fare one hears from any player on any team, this iteration of the Celtics earned the right to be taken seriously regarding their desire to improve enough to hang a banner.

Particularly given just how close they came, and how much they had to change to do it.

And while his shot wavered on the biggest stage the league provides, that Pritchard managed to work his way into an opportunity to be on it all adds more than enough weight to his claims that both he and Boston will be back.

This post originally appeared on Celtics Wire. Follow us on Facebook!

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