LAS VEGAS — The point of Celtics young veterans playing in summer league is to gain confidence and expand their skill set.
That’s the purpose for Carsen Edwards and Romeo Langford, each of whom enter this first season under Ime Udoka with something to prove.
Edwards, the 2019 second-round pick, whom the Celtics had hopes of being a reliable bench scorer, has yet to make an impact in two seasons. Langford, the 2019 first-round pick, has a real opportunity to carve a reserve role but he has to prove he can stay healthy and score consistently.
Their collective efforts here at the Las Vegas Summer League have the Celtics on the verge of Tuesday’s championship game. They again overpowered an opponent, this time the Philadelphia 76ers, 100-80, on Saturday at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
The Celtics improved to 4-0 and have won those games by a combined 84 points, meaning they are a cinch for the title game because of point differential.
Edwards and Langford are each playing significant minutes and trying to get accustomed to new responsibilities. The Celtics want Edwards to play more of a point guard role. He entered the NBA as an undersized prolific scorer at Purdue, a bucket getter. But those shots haven’t been going down in his limited opportunities.
He asked to play in summer league, though entering third-year players don’t often play summer sessions. Edwards said he is trying to find his way in the NBA, figure out the best way to contribute and be useful.
“Summer league is where I want to play and I asked to play and playing as many games as I can,” Edwards said. “It’s not easy but at the same time it matters to me so it’s important to try to find my niche and try to find a way to be impactful.”
Edwards scored 16 points (7-for-17 shooting) with 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 32 minutes Saturday. Summer league coach Joe Mazzulla is trying to convert Edwards into more of a playmaker, and he got the extended chance with Payton Pritchard leaving to play in a Portland-area pro-am.
“I was so proud of him,” Mazzulla said of Edwards. “For Carsen, he’s trying to find an identity as to what he is, a point guard or shooting guard. Sometimes, I think he struggles with that. Carsen did a tremendous job of making the right play every single time. I told him that after the game. He knew when to shoot it and he knew when to get the teammates involved.”
Mazzulla said Edwards told him to run another pick-and-roll play after he was unable to get the pass to a targeted teammate the first time. Mazzulla said that was a sign of growth.
“Personally, I see it as exciting, just being able to learn and take on a new role and that’s something I think I need to continue to work on,” Edwards said. “It’s still working on making decisions, even when I am a combo or at the [shooting guard]. Seeing guys make shots, that’s something I look forward to.”
Edwards is entering the third year of a four-year deal and it’s critical for him to show improvement. The Celtics’ backcourt got deeper this offseason with the acquisitions of Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson. Summer league is a chance for Edwards to prove he can play productive minutes at either backcourt position.
“Everyone kind of comes in here [the NBA] who they are and they have to figure out a way to stay,” he said. “Just for me, I’m going to keep fighting, find a way and figure the best way to help my team, whether that’s here or another team. Just trying to find a way and if it matters enough to you, you’ll find whatever way you can to figure it out.”
Langford earned minutes toward the end of the season with his defense and then showed offensive punch. The Celtics would like him to become a more confident scorer with a better skill set. But what has always dogged Langford is his quiet demeanor, which has led to judgments about his desire.
“I think sometimes people mistake Romeo’s passivity for just playing the right way,” Mazzulla said. “He waits for the right play to come to him. He did a good job of being patient. He plays the right way [but] I think he gets a negative connotation for doing it all the time. When people are around him, they play better.”
Langford said being more vocal has become a focal point as he gets older. He said he loves to play, wants to get better but has never been much of a talker.
“With the summer team, that’s one thing I could do [talk], especially on the defensive end,” Langford said. “For me, it’s about going out there and doing it and showing it. I’m more of a lead by example. Talking never hurts anything, that’s one thing I can improve on.
“People mention my love for the game and my passion, which is dumb, I feel like people just don’t know me. But I could talk more. It’s always been one thing people talk to me about.”