It has been a long road back for Romeo Langford.
He broke a bone in his wrist while playing in the Orlando bubble, and the NBA's quick pivot to a December start to this season meant Langford's absence would stretch past the All-Star break instead of costing him maybe a month of the season. Then, when he was ready to make his return in March, he caught COVID-19.
"It hit me pretty hard. I felt like I had a really bad flu and then I ended up losing my taste and smell," Langford said after actually making his debut Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets. "I really still can’t smell that much. So I wasn’t really allowed to do anything for two and a half weeks. So my main thing coming back was just getting my wind and getting my feel for the game and feeling the ball and stuff like that."
Langford played just about 12 minutes over two separate stints against the Hornets. Statistically, his night didn't look like much (3 points, 1-4 fg, 1-2 3pt, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block), but overall, he showed some real signs of being a helpful player for the stretch run.
"He was good, solid. Obviously, it’s nice to have him back out on the floor," Brad Stevens said. "After he caught the ball out of bounds on the first catch, I thought he did a lot of good things."
Yes, he joins the long list of Celtics to step out of bounds on the sidelines this year. But also, Stevens is right. He did do good things on the floor. Let's take a look.
His primary assignment was to cover guard Devonte' Graham and bother him with his size (Graham is 6'1", Langford is 6'4" ). The most notable early possession on Graham was this late first quarter chance:
This is a mostly good defensive possession when you take the situation into account. Langford hasn't defended an opposing NBA player in about eight months, so his technique is rough, but his reactions and instincts are good. The angle to get in front of Graham on the first drive is good, but the technique of turning his hips chasing is bad. He needs to slide laterally on this, but that's going to come with time. He actually, sort of, gets it right on the next change of direction, but then he turns a little too much again and runs past Graham. He still managed to challenge the shot, which is a testament to his natural ability.
That's something that can be easily cleaned up. What I like about it is that the basis of it all is good. There's moldable clay in this possession. Film and reps will fix this, but his mind is working the right way, and that's the most important thing right now.
However, since Langford has been out for so long, there will be mistakes. Something went wrong on this play, which Payton Pritchard is trying to relay to him: