The Athletic's Jay King believes he saw Payton Pritchard take a subtle dig at Ime Udoka during the Boston Celtics' 145-113 victory over the Houston Rockets, in Udoka's return to the TD Garden no less, on January 13.
According to King, the Udoka-aimed Pritchard shot, or rather alley-oop toss, one that came with Boston up 21 and under three minutes left in the fourth quarter, was one years in the making.
"Payton Pritchard throwing a garbage time off-the-backboard alley oop against Ime Udoka’s team is rich," King prefaced before saying, "Ime once got mad the Celtics kept feeding Pritchard late in a blowout win, saying they disrespected the game. That night, Pritchard hit a ton of 3s in front of a bunch of family and friends late in a game against the Blazers. The Celtics were loving it. Ime didn’t love it, or at least how crazy it got. Pritchard didn’t seem to agree with his coach then. Tonight, Pritchard threw the alley oop against Ime’s team while up 31 points with less than three minutes left."
Pritchard finished with 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds in 23 minutes in the C's rout of the Rockets.
Payton Pritchard had career-high in efficiency during lone Boston Celtics season
While Pritchard has started to make more shots at the rim in year four, his long-range peak was during Udoka's lone season with the Celtics. Being that a long-distance shooter is his primary role in the offense, you can argue Udoka got the most out of him during the regular season and (especially) the team's NBA Finals run.
In fact, it was under Mazzulla that Pritchard submitted a trade request ahead of the 2023 deadline; one unfulfilled, leading to his offseason extension and subsequent expanded role with career-high minutes during the 2023-24 season.
Pritchard's Celtics tenure has been rocky seemingly every year after his rookie season, but he's still here. In many ways, he's a symbol of persistence in Boston.
The opposite of the unfortunate flash-in-the-pan Udoka was in 2021 and 2022.