Langford, Nesmith Ready to Soar Among Celtics Wings

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum aren’t the only pair of young Celtics wings that you should be excited about heading into this season.

It’s time to put Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith on your radar, as well, if they aren’t already.

This preseason, Langford and Nesmith both emerged as consistent offensive threats, finishing second and third on Boston’s scoring list behind only Tatum.

In four exhibition games, Langford poured in 50 points while shooting 19-of-34 from the field, including a team-best 9-of-15 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Nesmith recorded 43 points on a 16-of-30 clip from the field, including 8-of-16 from long range.

Both guys are setting the stage to make a leap this season, and their teammates are behind them, eager to help hoist them up.

“Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith have really come into their own,” Marcus Smart told Celtics.com Sunday afternoon. “You can tell the game is slowing down, the game is coming to them. So we’ve got to continue to keep those guys going and try to send them in the right direction.”

It was clear that those guys were heading in the right direction right off the bat. They were both tested in the preseason opener when head coach Ime Udoka subbed them in during crunch time against the Orlando Magic. And they both seized the opportunity, as Nesmith scored 10 points during the fourth quarter before Langford delivered the game-winning 3-pointer.

Langford earned his next opportunity in Game 2 when he was promoted into the starting lineup, taking the place of Brown after the veteran wing tested positive for COVID-19. Langford played so well, that he remained in that starting spot for the remainder of the preseason.

“He had to take on a bigger load with Jaylen being out and some guys sitting out certain games, so he's taking the challenges,” said Udoka. “He’s shown us at training camp as well as open gym, and now he's translating that to the game.

“I've talked about it quite a bit with our young guys, we want to see them take a step in their progression and growth and he's taken advantage of his time with guys being out. So we want him to stay aggressive, you see moments and flashes of some youth in there every now and then, but for the most part, he's doing what we asked offensively and defensively. And he's a great playmaker, facilitator as well, so he brings a lot to the table.”

Langford’s shooting has been the most impressive trend thus far. He made nine 3-pointers in four games after making just 10 in 50 regular-season games through the first two seasons of his career.

Langford says the difference between now and then is that he’s simply feeling more comfortable on the floor.

“I feel like when I have my confidence, I can do just about anything I want on the court,” the 21-year-old said. “I’m just able to play freely.”

Nesmith has shown a rise in confidence as well, especially when he earned a start in Game 3 and finished with team-high marks of 23 points and four assists against the Magic.

The second-year wing says he worked this past summer on improving his playmaking skills, “being able to put the ball on the floor, read close-outs, read second defenders, make second moves once I get past the first, and keeping my head up a little bit for open players on the passes.”

Udoka called Nesmith a “very good complementary piece,” and believes that the 22-year-old is putting himself in a position to take a leap in his role this season.

“We talk of our young guys taking that leap and progressing, and I think him, Romeo, Grant (Williams), and Payton (Pritchard) have all done that,” Udoka said when asked about Nesmith. “I’m proud of the work he puts in. I see it every day ... He plays very confident and free, which is what we want him to do.”

What both Nesmith and Langford did throughout the preseason is exactly what the Celtics want to see from them moving forward. And the fact that their confidence is on the rise is a promising sign for whenever they're called upon to step into a big moment.

“We're excited for those guys,” said Smart. “We're excited to see when the lights are on, and they mean something, for those guys to come in and be impactful.”

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