(After watching this clip, I’m pretty sure Stiemsma is Blake Griffin’s Kryptonite. Also, I still hate Rick Kamla.)
I don’t know much about Greg Stiemsma. I remember seeing him play in college when he was at Wisconsin and thinking nothing but, “Man, he looks just like every other Wisconsin big man that team has ever had.” Beyond that, he never made much of an impression on me, mostly because I never envisioned the day when I’d have to learn how to spell “Stiemsma” and discuss the virtues of his low-post defense or the semi-mohawk hair-do he rocks in his D-League profile picture.
I know Stiemsma’s not an offensive player. During four games this season in the D-League, Stiemsma averaged 9.0 points per game, raising his career average to 8.7 points in 50 D-League games. And I can assure you, he’s not playing against the likes of Dwight Howard. He must have some sort of shooting touch, because his free throw percentage during those 50 games is 80.4 percent, a startling number for a big man, especially a defensive-minded one. But if you’re expecting Stiemsma to be any kind of scoring threat, well, I have a super-expensive time machine I’d like to sell you.
I know Stiemsma can block shots. Quite well. Better than any other D-League big man during the last couple years, in fact, and well enough to earn himself the 2010 D-League Defensive Player of the Year. Not one to jump through the roof — or anywhere remotely close to it — Stiemsma, according to the knowledgeable D-League followers I polled, nonetheless has a skill for blocking shots that should translate to the NBA, at least to an extent. Averaging 3.6 blocks in 28.3 minutes per game is impressive, even if the centers you’re playing are named Jamar Brown and Chas McFarland rather than Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan.
I know Stiemsma might be Boston’s only natural backup center come opening night. Given the Celtics’ desperate need for legitimate size, Stiemsma likely has the inside track on the 15th roster spot barring any further additions by Danny Ainge. Having Stiemsma as a 15th man isn’t scary at all — he’s a low-post defensive presence who understands his offensive liabilities. Having Stiemsma as your favorite team’s only true backup center is scary — if Jermaine O’Neal goes down to injury (I should probably change that “if” to a “when,” huh?), Boston’s only true low-post girth would come in the form of a 26-year old, athletically challenged shot-blocker who isn’t a particularly great rebounder, tends to get in foul trouble, hasn’t played a single NBA game and couldn’t score double digits if left alone in a gym for three hours. Of course, the Celtics will likely rely heavily on Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Kevin Garnett (a trio of power forwards) to fill the role of center during whatever absences O’Neal has. Stiemsma’s role would proably be minimal even if (slash when) O’Neal gets injured. Still, it would also be nice to have another decent, reliable option as a true center. I don’t know if Stiemsma is that guy.
At the very least, Stiemsma knows how he’s going to butter his bread — in the paint — and he’s not going to deviate from playing his role. (ESPN Boston)
“Hopefully I [can] bring some toughness, some inside presence, some shot-blocking ability,” Stiemsma said Wednesday after practice at the Celtics Training Center at HealthPoint. “Defense has always been my strong suit, so that’s where I’ve kind of [been focused]. I was looking forward to the challenge coming in, banging with some of the best in the game. Going against [Kevin Garnett] every day, and even Jermaine [O'Neal] — they’re big dudes. So it’s been fun for me.”
Of his time in the D-League and overseas, Stiemsma said, “It’s been cutting my teeth, kind of getting my grind in, getting experience in, knowing to let the game come to me. I’m getting a little older, a few years into the pro level, so that’s what it’s got to be [now]. You can’t rush too much. You’ve just got to stay within yourself and do what you can do. So I’ve been trying to focus on that, not stepping outside of my comfort zone too much, in terms of what I can and can’t do — just coming here, doing the things that I do well and doing them well.”
No matter how many people I’ve asked about Stiemsma, I still don’t claim to know an incredible amount about his game. But I do know this: In the NBA, low-post defenders who can give six fouls don’t grow on trees. If Stiemsma’s shot-blocking can carry over and he holds his own on the boards, letting him sap a few minutes as a defensive presence isn’t nearly the worst thing in the world.