Celtics

Ainge suggests Langford injury impacted Celtics' playoff potential

Celtics

If you made a list of why the Boston Celtics fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, Romeo Langford's absence probably would be near the bottom.

Danny Ainge apparently has a different list than you.

During an interview Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich," the Celtics' president of basketball operations insisted the team made efforts to improve Boston's depth at the NBA trade deadline and before the restart in Orlando.

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"First and foremost is health," Ainge said. " ... I think part of the reason we didn't have different players on the bench was, first of all, we worked very diligently to try to upgrade our bench going into the playoffs, but the price was too high or they were silly acquisitions that we weren't sure would make us that much better."

After no deals came to fruition, Ainge still felt confident in his bench entering the playoffs -- in part due to a belief in Langford, the team's No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

"We started to get Romey back healthy, and we really like him," Ainge said. "He's a good player. I know that nobody knows that yet in Boston and hasn't seen him, but the two games we played against Miami that we won, we scored 56 points in the paint in the last three quarters of one of the games and 60 points in the paint in another one.

"That's Romey's strength: scoring in the paint. And he didn't really get a chance to show much of that during this year."

 

Langford didn't show much of anything during an injury-riddled rookie season. He spent much of his time with the Maine Red Claws and appeared in just 32 games for Boston, averaging 2.5 points in 11.6 minutes per contest.

So, when the 20-year-old's postseason ended on Sept. 22 due to wrist surgery, few thought that would derail the Celtics' NBA Finals aspirations.

Third-rate second unit

Celtics' bench points per game in the postseason (third-lowest among playoff teams)
18.2

Ainge seemingly feels Langford could have made an impact against Miami, though.

"Going into the season, we liked our bench," Ainge said. "Going into these big playoff games, were always going to have three of the five main players on the court at all times. We were going to play center by committee, and we liked our core players opposite them.

"But because we had injuries with Kemba, injuries with Gordon and injuries with Romey, that hurt us. And that exposed our bench a little bit at that point.

" ... He gets hurt the first game of the playoffs, and that set us back a little bit."

Celtics fans may point to the team's crunch-time struggles or a lack of offensive consistency as bigger setbacks to the team's title run. But Ainge clearly still believes in Langford despite his disappointing first season.