Romeo Langford played through thumb injury for teammates at Indiana

Nick Friar
June 24, 2019 - 1:37 pm

When Zion Williamson hurt his knee (and blew up his shoe) back in February, every talking head said he should stop playing for Duke. “Zion should take the rest of the year off so he doesn’t hurt his draft stock,” or something of the like. Well, Williamson came back and still went No. 1 overall.

Like Williamson, Langford had his own injury. However, the Celtics’ first-round draft pick suffered his injury (torn ligament in his right thumb) in the first month of the season. He could have sat the year out and either returned for another season at Indiana or declare for the draft, as he did. But Langford refused to stay on the sideline for an extended period of time.

Part of the reason was he didn’t like the idea of being away from basketball for too long. Though Langford expressed the driving force behind his decision to play through the injury had nothing to do with personal gain.

“The main thing is I just wanted to be there for my team,” he said. “I didn’t want to let my team down.

“I didn’t want them to think I was just sitting out when I know I could play and play through it. And also, I just couldn’t, not play basketball for that long (of) a time. I knew I could play through it and that’s how I was raised, to be tough, tough-minded to be able to play through stuff like that. And that’s what it really came down to.”

In an era where athletes across all sports — with maybe the exception of hockey — are immensely careful about playing through injuries, Langford working through the frustrations with his thumb is unique. And he felt it impacted his shot noticeably, leading him to make adjustments to be more effective last year.

“It kind of did; I felt like I had to switch up my shot a little bit to make it go in,” Langford said. “Now that’s one of my big focuses (in) getting back on the court. Get my mechanics back to get my shot to where it used to be.

“I felt like I was able to show some things I was capable of doing, but I also feel like there (are) also many other things that I feel like I’m good at also that I wasn’t able to showcase, as well, in that time at Indiana. But I’m just glad to be a Celtic right now.”

Following the season, Langford had surgery to repair his injured thumb. He started dribbling and shooting roughly a week and a half ago and doctors still want him to control the tempo he practices with.

Regardless of his shot, the Celtics drafted a player who has displayed the ability to get to the rim with relative ease and one that can make a difference on defense. If his hand truly impacted his shot like Langford believes it did, then he could be one of the steals of the 2019 draft.