By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — When the Celtics drafted Payton Pritchard at the end of the first round last month, it wasn’t met with much fanfare. The selection caused more curious looks than celebratory reactions, as late-round picks by Danny Ainge tend to do.

Most mock drafts had Pritchard going in the second round, so it raised a few eyebrows when Ainge took the Oregon point guard at No. 26. But when you look at Pritchard’s resume with the Ducks — which includes All-American accolades and Pac-12 Player of the Year honors as a senior — it makes more sense. And then you watch some Pritchard highlights, and see a gritty player who is willing to go all-out on every possession.

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Those attributes are beloved in Boston, and Pritchard has brought that kind of energy and gusto to his first days of practice as a pro. It has caught the attention of another “leave it all on the line” player on the Boston roster: Marcus Smart.

Smart has seen the same highlights that fans watched when Pritchard was drafted, and now he has a first-hand look at what the 22-year-old has to offer. Smart is a fan.

“I kind of had a feeling that he would be a guy for me that would stand out,” Smart told reporters on Thursday. “I was looking forward to seeing what he has, and he hasn’t disappointed yet.”

Smart’s admiration of Pritchard makes a lot of sense, and it doesn’t seem like it’s just a guy pumping up a youngster because they wear the same jersey. Smart doesn’t pull punches or serve as a toady for Ainge. His defense of Kyrie Irving after the point guard’s unceremonious departure from Boston is a prime example of the guard not going with the flow of popular opinion.

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If Smart says Pritchard is showing something in practice, he means it. Boston head coach Brad Stevens is not surprised that Smart has taken a liking to Pritchard and his playing style.

“He’s tough, he knows how to play, he’s physical, he shoots the ball. So I think that he certainly has had a good couple of days,” Stevens said Thursday. “What that means in the long run, big picture, there’s still a lot to sort out.

“I’m not surprised that he’s stood out to Marcus. I do think that he’s got a lot of courage, I believe he’s got a lot of grit,” continued Stevens. “Obviously, that’s why we picked him in the first round, why he’s a good player.”

With Kemba Walker’s knee likely an ongoing question mark throughout the upcoming season, the Celtics needed to bulk up their depth at point guard. Ainge brought in veteran Jeff Teague to replace Brad Wanamaker and provide some insurance should Walker have to miss extended time.

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But if Pritchard can bring all the intangibles that Smart and Stevens highlighted on Thursday, the rookie may find himself playing an important role off the Boston bench. Staff