With point guards Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart sidelined with non-COVID-19 illnesses and Jeff Teague having been traded last month, the Celtics’ depth at point guard was pretty shallow during Monday’s 102-96 loss to the Bulls. Payton Pritchard started, and after that, there were few reliable options.
So in the second quarter, coach Brad Stevens sent out second-year wing Romeo Langford to run the offense. The move was due partly to the lack of available bodies, but also because Stevens envisions Langford potentially thriving in this role someday.
“I don’t know if that’s in his wheelhouse yet,” Stevens said, “but he has to get to that point where it is, with his size and his ability to pass the ball.”
Stevens said the Celtics eventually could use Langford (who is listed at 6 feet 4 inches) similarly to how they used the 6-7 Evan Turner during his two-year stint in Boston. Neither is an above-average shooter — although there is still time for Langford to get there — but both bring size, defensive versatility, and passing, and can be especially dangerous when surrounded by skilled marksmen.
Turner is a Celtics assistant coach now. He was selected with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 draft by Philadelphia but did not feel like his career truly blossomed until he arrived in Boston and the ball was put in his hands consistently.
“I think one thing that occurred for me from Day 1 was I accepted my role no matter what it was, and when you accept a role, you’re able to keep carving your own niche in that role,” Turner said.
“By my second year, I was shooting, like, 20 percent in an analytic league, but I thought I was a pretty valuable part of the team due to accepting and understanding my role and knowing what Coach wanted, and I think Romeo has a great opportunity to do that as well.”
Turner said that when he played point guard for the Celtics, he understood that his primary responsibility on offense was helping create good looks for shooters such as Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Kelly Olynyk.
“I wasn’t an idiot in that regard,” Turner quipped.
And he said it’s clear that Langford’s skill set will not get in the way of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He thinks they could be a dangerous trio, with Langford serving as the primary facilitator.
“He can distribute and be a great complementary piece at a high level,” Turner said. “He can add rebounding, defense, and his developing shot. He could be a triple-double threat. And with Brad’s playbook, when he starts getting more comfortable, he can start taking people to the post.
“A lot of the stuff we’re talking about is big-guard stuff, and I think that’s advantageous.”
For now, Langford is more likely to get opportunities leading the second unit. But he will not be stepping into this role on a larger scale any time soon. He ran the offense with the backups for about seven minutes in the second quarter Monday and had 2 points, 2 steals, 1 assist, and 1 turnover.
Stevens said Langford is “still kind of swimming.” And in the fourth quarter, the extra point-guard minutes went to two-way contract player Tremont Waters.
But Langford is just 21 years old, and injuries have limited him to 41 games over his first two pro seasons, so there is plenty of time and room for growth.
“Brad has a bigger-picture view where he sees how he can utilize Romeo for all his skill sets,” Turner said. “His pace is good, his defense is already good, and then offensively I appreciate his understanding of the game.
“Hopefully, if he keeps working, it’ll all work out the right way, because I know for sure what Brad’s system and Brad’s mind, and how he utilized me, did for my career.”