The butterflies started well before Romeo Langford made his first career start in the NBA Wednesday night.
Langford found out he would join the starting unit in pregame shootaround as the Celtics needed a replacement with both Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart sidelined due to minor injuries.
And while the butterflies swirled inside for the 20-year-old rookie who the Celtics selected No. 14 overall this past June out of Indiana University, Langford first had to rely the message to his parents, and do a little convincing as well.
“Definitely texted my mom and my dad that I was starting,” Langford said. “They were shocked. They thought I was in Maine (in the G-League). My mom was like, ‘You starting for Boston or Maine?’”
Langford was stunned to get the starting nod as well since he had played in only 14 games with the Celtics this season and averaged a little over eight minutes played in those contests. Celtics coach Brad Stevens tried to simplify Langford’s assignments by just trying to have the 6-foot-4 shooting guard focus on defending Orlando’s Evan Fournier, a tall task in its own right as Fournier netted a team-high 26 points.
Romeo Langford was tasked with guarding Evan Fournier last night. In 15 partial possessions against him, Langford allowed just two points (two FTs), per the NBA’s matchup data.— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) February 6, 2020
Langford, who hit three of his four shots to score six points, held his own over 28 minutes played, though, showing brief flashes of what made him a lottery pick as the C’s topped Orlando, 116-100. Langford’s biggest contributions came on the defensive end as he drew two charges and blocked Fournier’s shot on a drive in the first quarter.
“I was kind of shocked just because I haven’t been playing that much and now (coach Brad Stevens) trust me to start and guard Evan Fournier,” Langford said. “I’ve been working out pretty hard and preparing for my name to get called.”
Langford display hesitancy at times, especially offensively, as he tried to figure out where exactly he fit on the floor amongst Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. But the Celtics veterans, specially Hayward, urged Langford to be more aggressive and he obliged, showing great patience on a third-quarter drive and finishing a layup with Nikola Vucevic on him.
“They make it real easy,” said Langford of the C’s veterans. “They keep me level-headed and keep me comfortable. They tell me just go out there and play and let everything play out for itself.”
While Langford didn’t do anything remarkable in his first start, it was still an achievement for a player that desperately needed the playing time as the Celtics fan base begins to clamor that Langford was a wasted pick.
Everyone around the Celtics always talks about how Langford is brimming with potential, and it’s about time that he gets the chance to show it.
“I think he’s going to be a really good player in this league,” Hayward said.