The Boston Celtics were stuck. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart both missed the loss against the Chicago Bulls with non-COVID illnesses. That left Boston with few choices to run the point.
Payton Pritchard did a decent job in his minutes, but he's small and that's costly defensively. Tremont Waters got a chance at the end, and that worked out well, but considering his recent role in the Celtics blowing a 27-point fourth-quarter lead in Los Angeles, it's not surprising Brad Stevens waited to use him. Jayson Tatum initiated a lot of the offense but keeping him on the ball so much eliminates some creative ways to get his offense going.
So, with all that in mind, and Tatum having to sit at some point, Stevens went to Romeo Langford as the primary ball-handler.
It wasn't an outrageous thought. Langford spent most of his pre-NBA career with the ball in his hands. Running the show isn't a foreign concept to him, though doing it against any NBA-level defense is a bit of an unfair ask.
But here he was, forced into an odd situation because that's what everyone has been asked to do in this 2020-21 NBA season. If you haven't been asked to do something uncomfortable on the basketball court, did you really play for an NBA team this season?
"We tried to play Romeo there a little bit," Stevens said after the game. "I don’t know if that’s in his wheelhouse yet, but he has to get to that point with his size and his ability to pass the ball."
So that means at some point, it's possible Langford will be asked to be one of the team's lead ball-handlers.
"We’re going to avoid it as much as we can right now obviously, because he’s not used to it, hasn’t played enough games to orchestrate and organize a group," Stevens said. "We will eventually go to Evan Turner mode, I guess."
The idea of it is tantalizing. That Langford, with his size and defensive promise, could run point guard in a long, switchable lineup is a Stevens dream scenario. Let's look at the first batch of film we have to see how Langford did.
First of all, let's preface this film session by saying the Langford, Luke Kornet, Jabari Parker, Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith lineup on the floor is ridiculous. Stevens doesn't have much choice with the guys who are out, but it's hard to expect any one of these guys to have a ton of success. But maybe we can find signs of something good.
We won't find it on his first possession.
This is a designed alley-oop play for Jabari Parker, which the Bulls completely see coming. Nesmith makes a baseline cut to clear away any help from that side of the floor, but Thaddeus Young doesn't really need it. Parker takes a big, looping circuitous route that telegraphs the play. Langford is like a scared quarterback watching and waiting for his receiver to make his move and run his route.
He might as well have told Troy Brown, Jr. that he was going to try to throw the lob. To make matters worse, he tried to throw it from his hip. The way he was standing, and where he was standing, he was never a threat to do anything but pass. Even if the ball and somehow gotten through without being tipped, Young was in position to blow up the play on the back end.
His next opportunity highlights his strengths.