Why Celtics may need continued contributions from Romeo Langford


Romeo Langford has logged at least 28 minutes in back-to-back games. Over the five games he’d appeared in prior to Wednesday’s win against Orlando, he registered a combined total of 25 minutes and 18 seconds played. Not to mention, that five-game span stretched from January 13 to February 1. While Langford appeared in five games, there were seven others he didn’t play. (He also didn’t play on Monday.)

The fact he was in Boston’s starting lineup against the Magic on Wednesday made it seem like the rookie was being showcased, given Danny Ainge’s recent comments about having too many “really young guys.” But then the Celtics didn’t make a move at the deadline and Langford was back on the floor, logging late-game minutes in Boston’s 112-107 win over the Hawks. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

Playing 28:45 against the Hawks is one thing — especially with Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis all sidelined. But playing in the closing minutes of a tight game? Brad Stevens made a different statement with that decision.

“First of all, size and length, especially with Kemba (Walker) and (Marcus) Smart already out there,” Stevens said when asked why he went with Langford over a veteran late in Friday’s game. “I thought Romeo played well last game at the end of the game, as well. We’re pretty short on bodies tonight, so we knew that this was going to be a really tough game and I was going to, kind of, play it by ear, by who had played well. I thought (Langford) had defended well all night, and he obviously took advantage of some offensive opportunities.”

Romeo!! pic.twitter.com/Ohnff2Swxv

— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) February 8, 2020

Langford had played well throughout, but Stevens also didn’t give Javonte Green much time on the court (4:21) and he could’ve played Semi Ojeleye more (18:54). Those are two guys he’s gone to at various points in the season. Neither are necessarily ideal in late-game situations, but they could use the experience just as much, if not more than Langford this year, given what they’ve been asked to do in some of Boston’s big games. Yet Langford was the one who got the time.

And these experiences have already had an impact on the rookie.

“I was a lot more comfortable,” Langford said. “I mean, took me a little bit just to get the rhythm of the game, but once I got running up and down the court a little bit, I felt — I felt like I belonged out there.

“This game was just — it just felt different just because I started the last game. And then now coming off the bench, which is most likely what I’m going to be doing most of the time. Took a while to get used to it.”

That's Lottery Pick Romeo to you pic.twitter.com/RBZZUJ8QUE

— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) February 8, 2020

Now, at full strength, the Celtics aren’t going to Langford late. That’s fairly obvious. But with the injuries that continue to plague this team, they’re going to need whatever help they can get from the reserves the rest of the way.

Furthermore, Walker’s reaction to the report stating ex-Charlotte teammate Marvin Williams decided to go to the Bucks upon being bought out was telling. He was upset and later revealed he’d been working to get Williams to come to Boston for over a month.

Seems like a pretty clear sign the Celtics wanted at least one more piece.

To think Langford could be that extra piece might be a stretch. If Robert Williams can ever get healthy, he can at least help address Boston’s size issue. As for a scorer off the bench, Langford doubled his previous career-high (eight points) when he scored 16 against the Hawks — but Atlanta was depleted, on top of being one of the worst teams in the NBA.

Gigantic make for Romeo pic.twitter.com/vKBdPjlcx9

— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) February 8, 2020

The rookie can help on the defensive end, though.

“I felt like I’ve always played defense, it’s just a matter of doing it,” Langford said. “Coach Stevens tells us young players that the way we get on the court is with defense, and him trusting us in the defensive end. That’s what I work on, as well as my shooting. I know that defense and hustle plays are going to get me on the court, and I just go out and just do that.”

Romeo....AGAIN!!!! pic.twitter.com/SD1J9yocRW

— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) February 8, 2020

This sudden push with Langford could be the result of Boston preparing for a worst-case scenario with the buyout market. They were linked to more than one player who could stretch the floor. But if they can’t find the right piece, they have to search for alternative routes. Looks like they’re testing out their top pick from the 2019 NBA Draft to see if he can be part of the solution.

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