Panathinaikos OPAP Athens put their hands on another Greek League title last Friday (June 14), after a more than convincing 111-77 show-off against Promitheas Patras at the OAKA Indoor Hall. Among the Greens’ players celebrating the championship was Keith Langford, a European basketball veteran who confidently declared himself “ready to adapt to the team” as soon as he set foot on Greek soil. Later on, he expressed the desire to “win every night”.
Nevertheless, when all was said and done, the 36-year-old was probably the least happy person in Panathinaikos’s locker-room. As he confesses to TalkBasket.net, his role on the team was never clearly defined, regardless of the changes on the team’s bench and the shift from Xavi Pascual to Rick Pitino. In fact, under the latter, Langford never played more than 25 minutes in a Euroleague game, while he got to score 10 points in 15 minutes in what turned out to be his last game overall with the six-time Euroleague champions, the third final vs Promitheas. Although he never publicly expressed any discontent with his role on the team, after a two-month period of injury time, the experienced shooting guard had to re-adjust to a group that had changed coach and also added a new player, Sean Kilpatrick, to its roster.
As chance would have it, Keith Langford both “introduced” himself (Oct 6, 2018) and also bid farewell to Greece and Panathinaikos via TalkBasket.net. All (his) reasons are stated below:
Q: Keith, you’re Greek League champion now. How does it feel?
A: It’s been a long season with lots of ups and down, injuries, everything … I think everybody expected us to win, so for me right now it’s more relief than anything else. We got the job done, so that everyone can rest, go into the summer and make plans for next season.
Q: What are your plans?
A: My plans are to go somewhere where I will be able to be myself again. That’s my plan. I thank Panathinaikos for this season, it was fun, but I have to go back to being me. That’s all I want to do.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: Just my role and everything … It was fun and I’m happy about everything in the season, but I want to finish my career on my own terms. I wish I had more opportunities and playing time. That’s the main factor. Historically, I’ve been playing for fourteen years and in my previous thirteen years I’ve never been a player of 11, 14 or 15 minutes, things like that. For me, the opportunity and the freedom to be who I am as a player is the most important.
Q: Was it a matter of coach?
A: I don’t know. I just think that my role was never consistent. Some games maybe yes, some games maybe no. I would rather be how I’ve been for the majority of my career. Like I said, the experience was great. I’m glad I came here to see how it is, but it’s probably not the role for me.
Q: If you had the chance to think it over, would you still decide to come to Greece?
A: Yes, because this is a very special place, for sure. It’s just that what Panathinaikos needs and what I am as a player is a little bit different.
Q: Have you discussed with anyone on the team about it?
A: No, I think it’s obvious from the fact that I don’t play very much. The coaches have been a delight to work with, the players have been great too, but it is what it is.
Q: Are you going to look for a Euroleague team?
A: For sure, guaranteed. I think anybody watching the game can see that I can still play with the best of them. So, this isn’t the last of Keith Langford, for sure.