By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — With Kemba Walker sitting out the second part of a back-to-back Wednesday night, the Celtics had very little point guard depth against the Kings. It left the C’s with Jeff Teague as their starting point guard in Sacramento, with Tremont Waters backing him up.

Walker will be back in the starting lineup Friday night against the L.A. Clippers, and the Celtics hope to have a key reinforcement back in the mix in the coming days as well. On Thursday, Celtics president of basketball ops. Danny Ainge said that rookie Payton Pritchard is expected to return soon, which should help Brad Stevens and Co. as the team navigates life without Marcus Smart.

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“He’s very close. He was close to playing last night,” Ainge said of Pritchard during his appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich. “Payton is a tough kid and our biggest fear with him is coming back too soon. Some guys, you’re trying to push out there to get back. But Payton, his history in high school and college is he wants to play through everything.

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“He has a sore knee and he isn’t 100 percent yet. I suspect sometime on this trip he’ll be ready to play,” added Ainge.

Pritchard has been sidelined since Jan 22., when he suffered a scary knee injury early in a loss to the 76ers. Luckily for Pritchard and the Celtics, it was only a right knee sprain and not something worse.

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The point guard started shooting again last week and was participating in some drills ahead of Wednesday night’s loss in Sacramento. His return will vastly help Boston’s guard depth going forward, and give Stevens a much better option in his starting lineup should Walker need any more days off.

CBSBoston.com Staff