Celtics

4 storylines to follow as the Celtics wrap up the preseason and transition to the regular season

Romeo Langford has a chance to take a big leap.

Romeo Langford averaged 12.5 points per game in the preseason. Winslow Townson/AP Photo

With the Red Sox in the playoffs, the Revolution cruising, Patriots season in full swing, and the Celtics and Bruins getting underway, there’s no shortage of Boston sports to watch in October. 

There’s only so much time in the day, so missing some of the action is understandable. If you’re excited the Celtics are back, but didn’t get a chance to catch much of the preseason, here’s a look at what we learned and what it could mean going forward.

They’ve dealt with some injuries, positive COVID tests, and a missed flight.

The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Robert Williams, Payton Pritchard, and Marcus Smart when they lost to the Miami Heat in their final tune-up Friday night.

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Brown tested positive for COVID-19 and is expected to be back for the regular-season opener Wednesday against the New York Knicks barring any setbacks. Horford also tested positive, and his status for Wednesday is unclear as of Saturday afternoon.

Pritchard broke his nose against the Orlando Magic and will likely wear a mask against the Knicks. Williams missed Friday’s game due to right knee tendinopathy, but head coach Ime Udoka said Williams would have played if it had been a regular-season game. He said Williams will be ready to face the Knicks. 

The Celtics reportedly suspended Smart for missing a team flight, and he should be good to go against the Knicks as well. 

They still haven’t announced a starting lineup.

Udoka mixed and matched in the preseason – in part out of necessity and in part to get a feel for his pieces and how they best fit together. 

There’s no reason to place much stock in any of the decisions he’s made so far. Brown and Tatum are locks, Smart and Williams appear to be extremely likely, and Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, Aaron Nesmith, Juancho Hernangomez, Romeo Langford, and Horford are all in the discussion.

It’s a good problem to have, and just because they start a game a certain way, it doesn’t mean they’ll end it that way. Injuries and COVID issues could also play a role in determining how it shakes out.

Romeo Langford has a chance to take a big leap.

Langford, the former No. 14 pick, is still only 21 and has a chance to carve out an increased role this season.

He averaged just 2.7 points and 1.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 35.3 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent from 3-point range, in his first two seasons. That was largely due to injuries and lack of opporutnity but also in part due to inconsistency on his part.

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This preseason, he was the Celtics’ third-leading scorer at 12.5 points per game, behind just Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. He shot 55.9 percent from the floor and 60 percent from distance and looked infinitely more confident and polished.

In the past, when Langford got the ball on the wing, he often hesitated and second-guessed his shot. Now he appears ready to fire and much more sure of himself and his abilities. Of course, it was the preseason, and numbers and trends can sometimes be misleading, but he looks like an entirely new player in many ways and one who should have an opportunity to earn more playing time.

“It’s been good being able to get the run in and with confidence and just being able to go out and play basketball,” Langford said. “Being in the rotation, being in the first group was good to be able to do. Glad for that opportunity.”

Ime Udoka is not a fan of players complaining to the refs.

Celtics players are free to argue with officials for extended periods of time this season – as long as they’re OK with the possibility of taking a seat on the bench immediately afterward.

Udoka has made it clear he won’t stand for players bickering with officials, saying that’s his job and not theirs. He proved he meant what he said Friday when he benched Grant Williams after Williams’ arguing led to a Bam Adebayo dunk. 

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“When we cried about calls, they were running out and got too many easy looks,” Udoka said. “Something, like I said, we’ve talked about early in camp, and something I’m gonna keep hammering away on until we get to where we want to be.”

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