5 takeaways as Yam Madar shows flashes in Celtics Summer League opener

Plus: Payton Pritchard might not play at Summer League long & more.

Payton Pritchard
Payton Pritchard shined at Summer League on Sunday. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Celtics opened Las Vegas Summer League play on Sunday with a dramatic victory over the Hawks, boosting their Summer League record — which, of course, will be erased after this week — to 1-0.

Summer League results and notes should always be taken with a healthy helping of salt, but fill up your shakers: Here are the takeaways.

1. Yam Madar was the primary focal point for most fans, since Sunday’s game was his debut in a Celtics uniform.

Madar played well and certainly did enough to shift the hype car into drive. Defensively, he was pesky and forced Sharife Cooper — likely the best live-ball handler in the 2021 draft — into a turnover. He made a nifty pick-and-roll pass that raised some eyebrows, and he hit a pair of jumpers including a tough turnaround going directly into a defender.

Madar also dropped in a floater that nearly scraped the Cox Pavilion ceiling on its way down.

“It felt amazing,” Madar said, of playing an NBA game (albeit an exhibition one). “It’s a dream come true. Being on the floor, wearing that Celtics jersey, it’s amazing. It’s a blessing for me, for me family, representing them. It was great.”


Celtics Summer League coach Joe Mazzulla noted that Madar experienced some growing pains as the team trained last week.

“Just finding his niche,” Mazzulla said. “I think he’s great in pick-and-roll, he’s aggressive, and just trigger happy with making the right read, and that was one of the points of emphasis for him, was ‘Can he make the right read over and over again?’

“After Wednesday’s practice he did a tremendous job the rest of the week making good reads and tonight I thought he did the same thing.”

2. Another eye-opening stat: Romeo Langford finished 3-for-7 from 3-point range and buried the go-ahead triple from the corner, setting up the Celtics’ win.

The old NBA axiom that “It’s a make or miss league” certainly applies here. If Langford missed that shot, he would have finished the game 2-for-7 — a total that would encourage no one. Instead, he made it and the conversation shifts entirely based on one attempt.

Mazzulla said one of Langford’s Summer League goals is to make shots at opportune times.

“For that particular situation I felt that it was important for him to experience that,” Mazzulla said. “… To me, it goes back to what I believe it was Payton who pitched it ahead and gave it to him. So the ability for those guys to be on the same page, for them to trust each other and to just play the right way, good things happen.”


3. Payton Pritchard is far too good for Summer League and probably won’t play in Las Vegas for long. The second-year guard made seven 3-pointers en route to 23 points and showed off improved range that will serve him and the Celtics well next season.

Pritchard told reporters he worked on shooting out of the pick-and-roll and scoring in a variety of ways — valuable lessons for a player who will have a major role on a Celtics roster starved for point-guard depth.

According to Mazzulla, the Celtics want Pritchard to work on situational basketball which made the final two offensive sequences — a 3-pointer by Pritchard to cut the lead to one and Langford’s final 3-pointer which was set up by Pritchard — an ideal finish.

“He just told me like last-minute, end of the game, that’s where the point guards are made, that’s where point guards separate themselves in those moments,” Pritchard said. “So for me, I’ve played in a lot of games, late situations. So we hit a three, and then coming down Romeo’s in the corner, he’s wide-open, easy cake right there. That’s what we game-planned and then we just finished the game out.”


4. Aaron Nesmith’s final stat line was less encouraging for Celtics fans hoping he could be real wing depth — the second-year wing was 1-for-8 from 3-point range and 5-for-14 overall.

Mazzulla said the overall goal of Summer League was to “give guys confidence.” Nesmith’s debut isn’t likely to inspire confidence on either end, although clearly there is plenty of time for a shooter who hit 50 percent of his attempts as a sophomore in college to turn it around.

5. Interestingly, Celtics rookie Juhann Begarin finished 2-for-6, but both of his makes were corner 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Begarin is a solid athlete and powerfully built already at 18 — so powerfully built, the Celtics were able to switch comfortably on the defensive end when he played.

“He was able to play the five for us defensively, we were able to switch,” Mazzulla said. “I thought he did a great job showing his hands and making people score through him. … He played very well and just continue for him to be aggressive and shot selection. He’s such a good driver, a physical driver, but also we want him to work on shots. It’s just a balance.”

A lot of pieces are already in place, but a functional jumper would go a long way toward securing Begarin’s NBA future.

The Celtics’ next game in Las Vegas will take place on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Boston.


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