Celtics

Romeo Langford fixed his shot form. Now he just needs the right mindset.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla believes in Langford's shot, as long as Langford does too.

Romeo Langford
Celtics guard Romeo Langford has fixed his jump. Now he just needs confidence. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The first time most members of Celtics media got a chance to watch Romeo Langford practice in person in 2019, they were taken aback to see him launching shot after shot with a ping-pong paddle taped to his left hand.

The strategy was implemented by Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who wanted to make sure Langford kept his left thumb off the ball when he shot — a bad habit Langford struggled to correct after he joined the league.

Langford shoots with Mazzulla.

Langford’s progress was difficult to track due to his well-documented injury history. When he finally got on the floor last season, he shot just 27.8 percent from 3-point range, but he attempted just one per game — nowhere near an informative sample size.

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On Sunday, Langford went 3-for-7 from behind the arc — 42.9 percent — and hit a crucial 3-pointer down the stretch that put the Celtics in the driver’s seat in their first game at the Las Vegas Summer League.

The first game of Summer League, of course, is nothing close to an informative sample size either. But following Monday’s practice, Mazzulla told reporters he feels like the technical issues have been ironed out in Langford’s game.

“A lot of what goes into shooting is more mindset than technical,” Mazzulla said. “I think we fixed the majority of the technical things, and now it’s a matter of how many game shots and game reps is he going to get. Where’s his mindset in those adjustments and his ability to shoot.

“The last piece of that is, ‘Does he think he can make shots?’ And I think that’s half the battle.”

A workable jumper would be crucial for Langford, who played just 50 games in his first two seasons. Langford’s defense has been better than expected, which is a nice starting point, but the ability to spot up and hit 3-pointers opens up more avenues for playing time. If his shot develops, his slashing game — a major strength in high school and college — could be freed as well

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Langford told reporters before Summer League this season feels like a fresh start.

“I feel like I really haven’t shown just about anything that I’m really capable of doing,” he said. “I felt like coming into the NBA I really wasn’t known as a defender, but I felt like I’ve shown that I’m capable of playing defense and playing it pretty good. So that’s just a add-on of what I’m capable of doing.”

Quantifying what gives a player confidence is impossible, but a fresh start combined with good form and a game-winner at Summer League seems like as good a place to start as any.

“Just knowing all the work he puts in on his jumper and being able to see him pull that shot in transition with confidence and to go in was dope,” Carsen Edwards said on Monday. “I’m happy to see him do that.”

Mazzulla felt the same.

“I was happy for him,” Mazzulla said. “Any time you see a guy put in the work and he makes a shot like that, it’s important for his mindset and it’s important for his growth. We’re all looking for affirmations in some capacity, and hopefully last night that was good for his confidence.”

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