Celtics

So long, Greg Stiemsma

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So long, Greg Stiemsma

Over the weekend, Greg Stiemsma reportedly agreed to terms with the Timberwolves. But this afternoon, The Stiemer made his move to Minnesota as they say on the "Internet" Twitter official:

I"m very grateful to the Celtics and the City of Boston, but I'm very excited to be the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves! Greg Stiemsma (@gregstiemsma) July 24, 2012
God speed, Stiemer. God Shamgod speed.

Despite spending only one abbreviated season in Boston, we won't soon forget Stiemsma's time with the Celtics.

His presence almost immediately piqued the interest of fans. In some part due to his unique name. In some part, if we're being honest, due to the color of his skin. For those first few weeks, most of us figured he'd spend the season as a seven-foot Brian Scalabrine. The team's newest victory cigar. And we loved it. Stiemsma Fever was more contagious than the Motaba virus.

But it didn't take long to figure out that, above all else, the guy could actually play. That while he was far from an All-Star, Stiemsma was an exceptional shot blocker and a solid rebounder. That despite possessing one of the ugliest "jump" shots this side of Luke Harangody, he also had a pretty decent touch.

The shot blocking was what stood out to Tommy Heinsohn:
"His timing and how he goes about blocking shots does remind me of (Bill) Russell."

Yeeikes.

Tommy obviously meant no harm by the comparison, but it was one of the worst things to happen to Stiemsma in terms how he was perceived by people in Boston. StiemsmaRussell became a thing. Even though no one actually believed he was the next Bill Russell, people became obsessed with pointing out that he wasn't.

He'd make a big block or grab a big rebound and someone was always there with a sarcastic: "Haha! There's the next Bill Russell!" It was a lot more fun to joke about that ridiculous comparison than to see Stiemsma's emergence for what it was. An unbelievable story.

Here's a guy who was undrafted in 2008, then went to play in Turkey, did two stints in South Korea, played a season in the D-League and then went back to Turkey. A guy who in the midst of all his world traveling, signed contracts with the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but was cut both times before ever seeing the court. A guy who might have run out of chances if he hadn't caught the eye of the Celtics who were in desperate need of one more big man at last summer's Pan-Am Games (where he shot an absurd .889 from the field).

Less than a month after signing with Boston, Stiemsma found himself in the starting line-up alongside Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Think about that for a second. From Seoul to sharing the floor with three and a half Hall of Famers.

Stiemer wasn't a season-long staple in the Celtics rotation, though. In fact, there were long stretches when Doc Rivers moved away from him entirely. For the year, Stiemsma only averaged 13.9 minutes a game. That's fewer minutes than Keyon Dooling. Barely a minute more than Marquis Daniels. But he made the minutes count.

For instance, of the NBA's top 30 shot blockers last year, Stiemsma who ranked 14th was the only one who averaged less than 20 minutes a game. He blocked more shots in 13.9 minutes (1.55) than Marcus Camby did in 22.9 minutes, Joakim Noah did in 30.4 minutes and Tyson Chandler did in 33.2. Only Serge Ibaka averaged more blocks per 48 minutes than Stiemsma's 5.33.

By the time, Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal were done for the season, and Kevin Garnett settled in at the starting center, Stiemsma assumed the role of Boston's sixth man. Not in the traditional sense, but as part of Garnett's 5-5-5 plan Stiemer was technically always the first man off Boston's bench, and almost always provided solid minutes. He continued that role throughout most of the playoffs, until a few tough match-ups and more foot pain than he ever let on forced him out of the rotation.

He only played 2:08 in the C's Game 7 loss in Miami. The final 2:08 of his Celtics career. But over his one abbreviated season in Boston, Stiemsma proved a lot.

First, that he's not Bill Russell. But more importantly, that he IS an NBA player. That he DOES belong in this league. That the next time he's in Turkey or South Korea it will be on vacation.

Sure, it would have been nice to see him continue his career with the Celtics, but considering how far he came, it's just great to see him have a career at all. And there's no question that regardless of where he's playing, Stiemsma will always have fans here in Boston.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

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 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

Smart 'not worried' about lack of contract extension with Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the third year in a row, a first-round pick of the Boston Celtics is unable to come to terms on a contract extension prior to the deadline.

That means Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent this summer. Last year it was Kelly Olynyk (now with the Miami Heat) and in 2015 it was Jared Sullinger (now with Shenzhen Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association).

Both the Celtics and Smart's camp intensified their discussions in recent days as the October 16th 6 p.m. EST deadline drew near.

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While there was progress made, there wasn’t enough to get a deal done.

Smart has repeatedly indicated that he wants to re-sign a long-term deal to stay in Boston.

And the market for the 6-foot-4 guard became clearer based on the contracts that some of his fellow rookie class of 2014, were receiving.

Denver’s Gary Harris agreed to a four-year, $84 million contract after establishing himself as one of the better young two-way talents in the NBA last season. And at the other end of the financial spectrum, you would have to look at Phoenix’s T.J. Warren who signed a four-year, $50 million contract.

More than likely, Smart’s deal next summer will fall somewhere between the deals those two players received.

As much as Smart would have preferred to get a deal done heading into the season, it’s not something that he’s going to cause him to lose any sleep.

“Get it done now, or get it done in six months, I’m OK either way,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m not worried about it.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE