Langford Provides Defensive Spark in Season Debut, as C's Sting Hornets
Throughout this season, Celtics fans had been wondering, “Wherefore art thou Romeo Langford?” as they had not seen the 21-year-old wing in action since last September’s Eastern Conference Finals.
That was until Sunday night when he finally reappeared inside TD Garden and gave those fans a reminder of what they had been missing.
After being absent for more than six months while recovering from offseason wrist surgery and a recent bout with COVID-19, Langford returned to action for an Easter evening matchup against the Charlotte Hornets and provided 12 energetic minutes off the bench in a 116-86 Celtics win.
The sophomore checked in for the first of his two stints near the end of the first quarter and wound up being a spark for Boston on both ends of the court. He opened up the second frame by knocking down his first shot attempt of the season – a go-ahead three-pointer that gave the Celtics the lead for good – and then sprinted back on defense to block a dunk attempt by Hornets high-flyer Miles Bridges.
“It felt good to get back out there, get my legs back under me and just compete with my teammates,” said Langford, who finished the game with three points, one offensive rebound, one assist, one steal, and one block. “I had 12 minutes, it felt good. I wasn’t too tired. I wasn’t exhausted. So, it was good.”
It was a step in the right direction for Langford, considering how he had been in rough shape coming back from his battle with COVID. He was initially cleared from the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols earlier in the week, but his body was still dealing with the repercussions of the illness which prolonged his absence even more.
“My first workout back, my legs, my body, everything felt terrible,” Langford described. “I was really planning on playing on Friday (against Houston), but I had a little 4-on-4 session and really didn’t feel comfortable at all, just with my legs and my ability to play basketball. I just didn’t have my feel back and I wasn’t comfortable playing and I just told [the coaching staff], expressed that to them, and they understood. I told them, ‘Just give me until Sunday and I’ll feel better.’ And that’s what we did. I had two good workouts after that and got my feel back, got my shot back.”
Now that he’s back, Langford hopes to be a jack-of-all-trades type of player for a Boston team that’s looking to get some positive momentum going.
“I can do a little bit of everything whether that’s coming off screens, facilitating for my teammates, playing defense, making shots,” he said. “Just whatever they need for that game and that situation.”
One specific need that the Celtics have been looking to address is their play on the defensive end, which was where Langford excelled the most Sunday night. His lateral quickness allowed him to keep up with opponents driving from the perimeter, and his physicality allowed him to body them at the rim. It was no coincidence that his arrival coincided with the team’s best defensive effort of the season, as it surpassed its previous low of 94 points allowed by an eight-point margin.
Langford’s teammates, such as Kemba Walker, were thrilled to have him back on the court making an immediate impact, and they can’t wait to see what he blossoms into now that he’s finally healthy.
“Romeo is a really important piece of what we want to do,” Walker stated. “He worked super, super hard to get back to where he is now. I'm excited for him, excited for his opportunity, because he's gotten so much better. It's been a rough year for him to try to get back on the court. I'm really excited he's back and tonight he was great. He didn't skip a beat at all. Defensively, he was great … He's going to be key to what we are trying to do.”