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The legend – and significance – of Greg Stiemsma just continues to grow

01.03.12 at 10:33 am ET
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Doc Rivers wanted to make sure Greg Stiemsma had the confidence to assume the role of playing and starting for the Celtics. He wanted to hear it from the man himself and then the Celtics coach wanted the rookie – who’s been around the world playing basketball – to let his teammates know he was ready.

“We had the silly ‘€“ he’€™ll recall it, but we had the silly day where he wouldn’€™t shoot and I made him stand in front of the whole team and say, ‘€˜My name is Greg Stiemsma; I’€™m a shooter.’€™ And we kept making him repeat it. Everybody started. About two weeks ago, everybody was laughing. He said, ‘€˜I can shoot. I’€™m a shooter.’€™ And he is. And it was good,” Rivers said after Monday’s 100-92 win over the Wizards.

It worked. Stiemsma, filling in as starting center for Jermaine O’Neal, scored 13 points and hauled down seven rebounds in 21 minutes. He added two blocks – including one that got Wizards coach Flip Saunders ejected just over a minute into the game – two assists, three fouls on 5-of-7 shooting. Not bad for a guy who had to be convinced by his coach that he was good enough to be taking shots in the NBA.

‘€œStiemsma was terrific,” Rivers said. “He was absolutely wonderful. And I was so happy when he just took the shot. My favorite play of the whole game was he missed a shot and they threw it right back to him and he shot it again. I mean, that’€™s terrific. That was ‘€“ I thought the whole bench was excited over that because it’€™s what we’€™ve been saying.”

After playing at the University of Wisconsin, Stiemsma went overseas to play in South Korea and Turkey. He came home to play in the D-League. He got a look from the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but couldn’t stick on an NBA roster. Monday night, he finally got his first NBA start.

And after hearing the crowd cheer for him every time he touched the ball in preseason and on Friday night, he was ready to take the big stage Monday.

‘€œI’€™m trying to bring some energy every time,” he said. “I take my shot when it’€™s there and not force anything. I just want to take care of the ball.’€

Kevin Garnett has been huge in helping Stiemsma, as our Paul Flannery points out. Stiemsma has been doing everything he can to contribute, since he figures to become more and more important as the Celtics manage the hamstring of Jermaine O’Neal through the course of an accelerated schedule.

‘€œI’€™ve just try to be his sponge and just learn as much as I can from him,” Steimsma said. “He doesn’€™t make mistakes too often so he’€™s in the right spot every time. So if I can just mimic him, it’€™s going to help my game.

‘€œWith every opportunity I’€™ve had I feel like I’€™ve tried to step up to the plate and come out and perform well and tonight was another opportunity. I was happy to get the opportunity and to play well on top of that.’€

And now, thanks to Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, he will do so with a lot more confidence.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
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