Pride of West A Street

A nice reader of this blog told me recently that she reads "every post except the sports ones." Well, then, I guess I just talked about her behind her back. This one is about American pro basketball.

Tonight the next-to-last round of playoff series begins in Miami, with the Boston Celtics in South Beach to play the Heat. They are two of only four teams left in a playoff field that started out, at least theoretically, with 20. The other series in this round pits the Golden State Warriors against the Dallas Mavericks; they start tomorrow.

I wrote here a while back about the head coach of the Celtics, Ime Udoka, who's a Portland guy through and through. Today my spotlight is on a key bench player for the Celtics, who as it turns out, is a West Linn guy.

Payton Pritchard, age 24, was a star player at West Linn High and the U of O. He was drafted by the Celtics and has quickly insinuated himself into their lineup. A point guard, he's nearing the end of his second year in the pro ranks. He plays about 14 minutes a game on average, but they always feel like clutch minutes. On Sunday, in a series-deciding Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Pritchard had 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 17 minutes. He made four three-point baskets and was a real spark plug. Boston stomped Milwaukee, which ran out of steam down the stretch, winding up losing by 28.

Here's the Pritchard highlight reel from that one. It was truly impressive.

I have always thought he was related to Kevin Pritchard, a front office guy who spent a lot of years with the Trail Blazers – the standard coach's-kid story – but I was wrong about that. The two men are not related, at least not going back as far as anyone knows. But Payton's dad is a jock, an ex-football player, who helicoptered over his son all through his school days, obviously to great success.

I'll be rooting for Payton, but not too hard, because I also like his opponents. The Heat's long-tine head coach, Erik Spoelstra, is another Portland product, an alum of Jesuit High and the University of Portland. His dad, Jon, was in fact a Blazer executive. That's a story often told, so I'll leave it for another day or somebody else.

For now, suffice it to say we have a chess match between two stellar Portland dudes in the coaching department, and a West Linn kid working hard to make his mark. There are only four head coaches and 60 players left in this thing, and so Portlandians have a right to feel just a wee bit proud about that, even though the Blazers are a major embarrassment at the moment.

Both the Celtics and the Heat have had fabulous seasons and are peaking at the best time. They were the first and second seeds out of the 10 teams on their side of the league, and for good reason. Let's hope that no one gets injured too badly, and they give us the classic showdown that the series promises to be.