The wait is over. Romeo Langford is back.
He was set to return after the All-Star break on March 11th after missing the first half of the season rehabbing from wrist surgery. Unfortunately, a positive COVID test and a bout with the coronavirus delayed his 2020-2021 debut nearly a month. After suffering bad flu-like symptoms for 4 or 5 days, he lost his senses of taste and smell and was forced to not work out for two and a half weeks. He was cleared to play on Friday, but approached Brad Stevens and the staff about pushing back two days to Sunday. Like many professional athletes including teammate Jayson Tatum, he still feels some effects with his breathing, but he felt good after his twelve minutes against the Hornets.
“It felt good to get back out there and get my legs back under me and compete with my teammates. It felt good. I wasn’t too tired. I wasn’t exhausted. It felt good,” Langford said after scoring three points along with a rebound and an assist.
Romeo’s one shining play of the evening came at the beginning of the second quarter when he hit his first shot of the season from behind the arc and then helped on Miles Bridges spinning off Payton Pritchard for a dunk on the baseline. Langford met him at the rim and stuffed him with both hands.
Rim protection isn’t exactly Langford’s game, but he does see himself as a key component in the team’s defense.
“I feel like I’m the best in isolation. I don’t let my guy go around me,” Langford said of what he thinks he can bring to a defense that held Charlotte to 86 points. “With that being said, that means the team doesn’t really have to overhelp as much and give up more threes when it comes to the guy I’m checking.”
Coming out of IU and as a former Mr. Basketball of the state of Indiana, Langford was known as a slashing threat and a born scorer. However, what he’s shown defensively in practice and in glimpses at the beginning of the last season and in the bubble have carved out a different role for him in Boston, at least early in his career.
“Romeo is a really important piece in what we want to do. He’s worked super super hard to get back to where he is now. I’m excited for him, very excited for his opportunity, because he’s gotten so much better, but you know, it’s been a rough year for him to get back on the court, so I’m excited that he’s back,” Kemba Walker said of the sophomore’s road to recovery. “Tonight, he was great. He didn’t skip a beat at all. Defensively, he was great. I believe he only took maybe two shots or so, but they’ll come and he’s going to be key to what we’re trying to do.”
Langford measures at 6’4”, 216 pounds, but it looks like he’s added strength and size to his frame. Coupled with his defensive instincts, his career trajectory could look similar to Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart, a defensive bulldog who grows into his offensive game. For now, his performance in his first game back is at least a positive sign that the flashes we saw last year weren’t just that.