Greg Stiemsma has fought too hard, played too many minutes overseas, and been told no too many times to let injuries hold him back from playing the role he has fought years to attain.
Like most players around the league, Stiemsma is battling through a handful of bumps and bruises during this condensed season. But the 26-year-old rookie center has waited too long for this opportunity to take a seat to aches and pains.
Ive worked too hard to get to this point to let a couple little injuries keep me off the floor, Stiemsma said following the Celtics 88-76 win over the Washington Wizards. Its been a journey to get here, so Im not going to let something little keep me off the floor.
Stiemsma has gone from one of the last to one of the first off the bench due to the season-ending injuries of Jermaine ONeal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (heart condition). After making late-game appearances during blowouts early on, the 6-11 center is now seeing meaningful playing time.
With that additional time on the court comes additional injuries as well. Stiemsma is battling a bone bruise in his right foot and plantar fasciitis in his left. His previously jammed right thumb is feeling better while his right pinkie finger is slightly bent and bruised.
I took a little chunk out of my right pinkie on one of those blocks in Atlanta, I think, he said. But nothing major, just a flesh wound. Its always been a little crooked so when they first looked at it when I jammed it, I think I made (Celtics athletic trainer) Ed (Lacerte) a little nervous how far it was sticking out. But its alright.
Stiemsma posted 10 points (4-5 FG) and seven rebounds in over 23 minutes on Sunday against the Wizards, the the most minutes of any Celtics reserve.
The whole confidence has been coming, its been building over the year, he said. Right now I feel good about my game. These consistent minutes have really helped too, just knowing that I have to take those shots for the good of the team. If Im standing there open, its a good look for us.
Stiemsmas change in confidence is apparent to his teammates as well.
Just his confidence shooting the ball, said Rondo. Hes knocking down the elbow 15-footer shot, getting a lot of blocks out there, and his defensive rotations are getting better.
Said Kevin Garnett, Gregs been huge since the departure of JO and thats our lack of big men. I think hes stepped in and been solid for the role that we need him. He understands what were doing here, he understands his role, and I think he plays his role very well.
Only in his first NBA season, Stiemsma is already learning to deal with his injuries in order to succeed in his role. He finds it easier to ignore the pain once he is in the flow of the game, and when he does feel it, he keeps on pushing.
Youve just got to fight through it, he said. Like I said, theres not a very good second option.