Greg Stiemsma's career in the NBA is off to a tremendous start. Once a training camp invitee, the 26-year-old center has taken advantage of the minutes he's been given and has carved out an early-season role with the aging Boston Celtics. Now, with the return of Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox, Stiemsma is in a battle for minutes.
"I'm ready to play whenever my number gets called, you know, I try to be ready" Stiemsma said following Wednesday's win over the New Jersey Nets. "Some nights it's going to be 20, some nights it's going to be five if I even get in. I'm not worried about minutes at all. I'm happy to contribute when I get the opportunity."
Stiemsma is averaging 4.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while serving as a backup center for the Celtics. He made his debut in the Celtics' third game of the season against the New Orleans Hornets, and he did not disappoint, finishing with six blocks, four rebounds and two points in 20 minutes while filling in for an injured Chris Wilcox.
In his next game, Stiemsma had just two points, three rebounds, two assists and a block in Boston's first win of the season against the Detroit Pistons. On New Year's Day, Stiemsma had four points, three blocks and three rebounds.
Stiemsma was given the opportunity to start for the Celtics when the team held Jermaine O'Neal out with a hamstring injury against the Washington Wizards on Monday night, and he was up to the challenge, scoring a career-high 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds while blocking two shots.
Against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night, Stiemsma had significantly less minutes (he played 12). In those 12 minutes, Stiemsma scored just one point on a free throw but had five rebounds and blocked one shot.
Whatever the outcome, one thing has remained consistent: Stiemsma is very grateful.
"It's been an honor," said Stiemsma. "It's been a lot of fun, a lot of work. We've still got a lot of work to do, so it's fun to be a part of that. It's fun to see guys progress."
One of the players Stiemsma has witnessed progress is Celtics captain Paul Pierce, who missed the team's first three games of the season with a bruised right heel. Pierce returned against the Pistons last Friday, and has improved in every game since. On Wednesday, Pierce scored a game-high 24 points and had six rebounds and five assists.
"That's what he does," said Stiemsma. "He makes it look easy at times. But you can expect that every night, so he's fun to watch."
Even though Stiemsma hasn't been around this group very long, he already feels at home.
"It feels pretty good," Stiemsma said of the team's chemistry. "Guys have had the opportunity to step up and different guys have done it each night. So far the chemistry has been great."
There's plenty of work to be done for Stiemsma and the team. They haven't reached the place they want to be just yet, but make no mistake, they are making progress every game.
"We're not at the top level we want to be at, but we're working at it and we're getting there," he said.
#54 / Center / Boston Celtics
Sep 26, 1985