Tell me if you haven’t heard this before: Romeo Langford is out tonight. After a brief flirtation with availability after not appearing on yesterday’s injury report, the second-year swingman will have to wait a little longer to make his 2021 debut after he gets some re-conditioning work in after recovering from COVID. Tristan Thompson continues to be out for health and safety protocols and Semi Ojeleye is looking at another week of recovery from left side strain suffered in a March 24th collision with Jrue Holiday against the Bucks.
It’s been a long time coming for Romeo. Langford hasn’t played since September 17th, 2020. It was Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami. Previously, he had entered he Orlando bubble in July with a stomach bug that kept him out of scrimmages and subsequently, early action when the 2020 season resumed. He tore ligaments in his wrist in the final regular season game against Washington and the injury hampered him through the first round of the playoffs. With offseason surgery inevitable, he gutted it out until a right abductor strain eliminated him from the post-season altogether.
He had been scheduled to return on March 11th when he entered the health and safety protocols with a positive coronavirus test. He’s since recovered and re-started to get back into shape after Brad Stevens said that Langford’s legs “felt like jelly.” On the bright side, assistant coach Joe Mazulla is confident that Romeo will bounce back:
“The thing with him has always been his shot,” Mazzulla said. “And I think there are two types of shooters: guys that are really good making shots in practice settings and guys that are able to translate it to the game. I don’t know if it’ll translate or how long it’ll take, but I do know he’s a better shooter than even he thinks he is and what he has shown to this point. It’s a matter of having the confidence and mind-set to translate it to the game.”
During this year’s rehab sessions the focus has shifted to Langford’s footwork. Mazzulla says it will be the key to unlocking his potential. On offense it will allow Langford to slice past a defender off the dribble, or ensure that he is not flat-footed when he catches a pass and prepares to shoot. On defense, it will allow him to find the perfect patterns and angles to disrupt an opponent.
“His footwork is going to be what separates him,” Mazzulla said.
For now, we wait with bated breath.