Langford Carving Out Consistent Role with Second Unit
Entering his third season with the Boston Celtics, Romeo Langford was hoping to carve out a more consistent role than he had during his previous two. The 22-year-old wing is beginning to do just that.
Thanks to improved shooting efficiency, a relentless effort on both the offensive and defensive glass, physicality on the defensive end, and, above all, a mostly clean bill of health, Langford has seen a substantial uptick in minutes and is doing his job by delivering in his role.
“I'm a lot more confident now,” Langford said following Wednesday afternoon’s practice in Brighton. “I felt like when I first got drafted, I was still rehabbing from my surgery I had after my college season so I really can't do too much. And I wasn't in the best shape coming into [the NBA], but I feel like now, especially this past summer working with the strength guys and training guys helped get my body back to normal and more comfortable and more just be able to move freely out there.”
Just over a third of the way through the season, Langford has already seen more total minutes than he did in either his rookie or sophomore campaigns (both regular season and postseason combined), and he is averaging career highs across the board, including 5.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 18.3 minutes per game
Langford is also shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 39.0 percent from 3-point range, which are massive spikes from his career marks heading into the season of 35.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range. The only Celtic with a higher 3-point clip is Grant Williams at 45.3 percent.
A large portion of Langford’s scoring has been created in the corners, from where he’ll either rise up for a three or drive toward the basket where he can either score or kick out to his teammates.
“I just read the close-out, see if I’ve got a shot first and if not, try to break down the defense, get my feet in the paint,” he said. “That’s what coach really is looking for when I go out there is for me to drive and either drive to the rim and score or drive to get other people open.”
Langford has also taken a tenacious approach in crashing the glass. Since Nov. 13 he has averaged 7.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is the leading mark among Celtics guards. Included in that number are the 2.1 offensive boards he’s averaging per 36 minutes, which is more than double the next-closest mark among guards during that span.
At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, Langford isn’t one of the biggest players on the court at any given time, but he plays with significant physicality, which allows him to rack up such rebounding numbers. Combining his strength and his lateral quickness has turned Langford into a reliable defender, who can guard most positions and all talent levels. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 104.8 when he is on the court, which is the third-highest among his teammates behind Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams.
Though he’s just starting to make his mark as a physical defender in the NBA, he really began putting an emphasis on building his strength back in college.
“Playing in the Big 10 and my strength coach at Indiana kind of helped with that,” Langford said, claiming that Big 10 guards are just as physical as NBA guards. “Coach Clif (Marshall) helped put muscle on, helped me just be able to get used to banging and being physical. So I feel like just playing in the Big 10 and my strength coach in college kind of helped with that. And it was just a matter of time for me just getting back to that after my surgery, and I feel like now I am.”
Being mostly healthy over the past eight-plus months, aside from a few games missed here and there, has also instilled confidence within Langford.
He had a rough go in his first couple of years. First, he missed Summer League of his rookie season after undergoing thumb surgery, and then a few months later, he strained his groin and sprained his knee during the preseason. He sprained his right ankle less than a month into his first season, causing him to miss more time. And in the 2020 Playoffs, he strained his right adductor before suffering a season-ending ligament tear in his right wrist. That surgery that ensued from that tear kept him out until the following April. But since then, he has been mostly in the clear.
“It is a relief not to have to worry about anything like that and just be able to play,” Langford said. “I would think I got all my bad luck out the way my first two seasons with little knick-knack injuries and stuff like that, but just can't really think about that now. It’s just time to go out there and play.”