At the time, Stevens stressed the importance of the Celtics improving their roster, and while it was telling at the time, you couldn’t help but think is was more a conversation for Danny Ainge, then serving as Boston’s president of basketball operations. Ainge, however, stepped down from that post the next morning only to have Stevens fill the role and leave a head coach vacancy.
It means now Stevens is responsible for making said changes to the Celtics roster. And his comments on one specific Celtic — Romeo Langford — depict his feelings for the second-year player, who previously may not have been a shoe-in for a roster spot on a team in need of improving.
“… I thought Romeo was great tonight and showed signs, kind of throughout the course of the last few games, that he can build off of heading into the summer, and others did a good job too,” Stevens said on a video conference Tuesday night. “But we have to get better, and we know that.”
Langford was sidelined for much of the season due to a number of things. First, Romeo missed time due to offseason wrist surgery. As he was getting closer to his return, he then went on the team’s COVID-19 list. The Indiana product ended up playing 18 games while averaging just 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds.
Stevens, though, revealed how he sat Langford down and told him the importance of finishing the season strong. If he did so, Stevens said, he wouldn’t remember the early part to his otherwise down year.
Langford did just that. He played 25 minutes or more in Boston’s final three postseason games. He scored 17 points on 7-for-12 from the floor in a career-high 37 minutes in the season-ending loss.
Stevens acknowledged how he was hoping it will jumpstart the offseason for the 21-year-old.
“He’s got to build off that momentum. He’s got to work hard. All those guys do. All of our players do. Period,” Stevens said. “But specifically those younger guys because they saw the level they have to meet, and that’s a real level.”
Langford earned some praise from Celtics star Jayson Tatum after that season-ending loss, too. Tatum, similar to Stevens, is hopeful Langford and the rest of the youngsters can continue to build off their first or second seasons.
“I like the way the first- and second-year guys played all season,” Tatum said on a video conference Tuesday. “Payton (Pritchard), Grant (Williams), Aaron (Nesmith), you know later in the season. I think tonight was the best game Romeo might have played all season. And I think there’s something to build on. I think Romeo has a lot of potential, he’s just got to keep working at it.”
Langford was Boston’s No. 14 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. It’s more likely than not he’ll be back with the Celtics come the 2021-22 campaign, especially after Stevens’ comments, and it’s safe to say the new president of basketball operations will be looking for big things out of him.