Pregame Post-Ups: Stevens Impressed by Rookie Langford’s Poise

Sunday, Feb. 9 - Celtics at Thunder

Pregame – Stevens Impressed by Rookie Langford’s Poise

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rookie Romeo Langford was thrown into his first NBA crunch-time situation Friday night against Atlanta and delivered two clutch baskets, a couple of big-time defensive plays, and a pair of game-sealing free-throws to help the Boston Celtics escape with a 112-107 win.

What was most impressive about the 20-year-old’s performance was the poise with which he played. In what would have been a heart-pounding moment for most young players, Langford appeared as though he wasn’t breaking a sweat. In fact, it didn’t even look as though he was breathing, much to coach Brad Stevens’ amazement, during a 16-point, five-rebound, three-block performance over 29 minutes of turnover-free action.

“I always wondered about the guys that don’t seem like they have a pulse when they’re walking around – that everything just kind of goes off their shoulder,” Stevens pondered ahead of Sunday afternoon’s game in Oklahoma City. “I’ve had a few guys like that over the years, and you throw them in during huge, huge moments and they still don’t seem like they’re affected by it. And I mean that in a good way.

“He’s done a good job in those moments,” the coach added. “I don’t think he’s going to be overwhelmed by anything. He’s just got a lot of learning to do and a lot of growing to do. But he had a couple of defensive plays the other day that were really special. And then he made the huge 3 in the corner, the one that gave us a little bit of breathing room there.”

Heading into this past week, Langford had not seen many long stints of playing time. However, the Celtics have relied upon him over the last few games as they’ve dealt with a plethora of injuries to key rotation players. Stevens is more than happy with what the young wing has brought to the team during the stretch of undermanned play.

“He’s a guy that can score the ball on drives, and his shot has gotten way better – he’s worked hard on it,” Stevens noted. “And then defensively, I think he’s just so versatile. You can throw him in with our other wings, and we just have a lot of options defensively. He can switch, he can guard a bunch of different positions, he’s stronger than he looks, and we think he’s got a huge upside. He did a good job when we had guys out, kind of holding down the fort the last couple of games.”

The Celtics will welcome three of their previously-injured starters back tonight (Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis), which means Langford likely won’t see as much playing time as he has over the last couple of games. But at least the Celtics now know that they have another talented and composed option in Langford who they can turn to down the stretch if needed.

- Taylor Snow

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