Stiemsma: Minnesota 'was a better fit for this season'

769396.jpg

Stiemsma: Minnesota 'was a better fit for this season'

BOSTON -- Greg Stiemsma sat comfortably at his locker while music blared out of his teammates headphones from across the room.
Long as I stay hustling I'm gon shine Just waiting on that moment Waiting on my moment
The DJ Drama song was fitting in Stiemsma's return to Boston, the city where he established himself in the NBA at the age of 26 after years of playing overseas and questioning not when, but if, he would get his shot in the pros.
"This time last year I was in Sioux Falls still hoping to sneak a way in the NBA," said Stiemsma. "I guess patience paid off."
Minutes earlier, the big man lay on the trainers table next to Kevin Love while a sizable pack of media members anxiously gathered nearby. One reporter joked Love must have thought the crowd was for him. Not at the TD Garden.
Wednesday was Stiemsma's first trip back to Beantown since his rookie year in which he made a name for himself in only 55 games. He averaged 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds, while drawing attention with 1.6 blocks. By the end of the season, Doc Rivers was calling his name as Kevin Garnett's backup center.
This summer was different than years past. Rather than considering which country to move to, Stiemsma was on the receiving end of interest from several NBA teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, Charlotte Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers. The Celtics made Stiemsma, a restricted free agent, a qualifying offer, but he knew if he did not stay on the team there would not be hard feelings. Stiemsma understood the Celtics were also exploring their options and was appreciative for the opportunity they gave him in the first place.
"I got a call from Danny (Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge) when free agency opened up and he kind of wished me best of luck, a good season kind of talk," Stiemsma recalled. "I thanked him for this opportunity and I think from then on we kind of knew that if things weren't going to work out, we kind of knew why. I think it was a mutual respect thing where he was calling to -- I feel that was a good phone call for me to get to know what was coming up."
Stiemsma signed a two-year deal with the Timberwolves, a decision brought him closer to his hometown of Randolph, Wisconsin and also gave him more money and years than the Celtics offered.
"I just felt like it was a better fit for this season," he said. "The way Minnesota's team was starting to build up, I felt it would be a great fit here. Nothing against what I had in Boston last year. I'm very grateful for that opportunity, but I just thought it was a better fit here."
Stiemsma kept in touch with Avery Bradley, Sasha Pavlovic, and his former lockermate, Ray Allen, during the summer. Allen offered him advice during the free agency process and for a long NBA career.
"Be a voice in the locker room," Stiemsma recounted. "Be vocal on the floor. Be part of it. The more you get along with the guys, the more you can adapt on the floor."
Now in his second season, Stiemsma is incorporating the words of wisdom he learned from all of his veteran teammates on the Celtics into his daily approach. Be professional. Stay even keeled. Take the season one game at a time.
"When you have examples like KG (Kevin Garnett) and Paul (Pierce) and Ray, those guys are the best of the best as far as I'm concerned," Stiemsma said.
Stiemsma is averaging 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 12.9 minutes per game this season. The pain that hampered him last season in both feet has subsided and he is able to play without feeling the effects of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a bone bruise in his right. This summer he did not run until training camp, focusing on weight training instead.
"I've come too far to let something small keep me off the court," he said of the foot injuries. "So I was going to do whatever it takes, play through whatever pain, to try to keep me out there. There were a few games when it was just tough to get up and down the floor. The next mornings were even worse, those first few steps out of bed, the first hour in the morning when everything was just stiff and tight. When I first bruised my right foot, my left one was still a little sore and I felt like an old man in the morning hobbling to the bathroom. But that's part of this business, part of his nature. If you're a big guy, you're going to have injuries."
With a fierce determination, Stiemsma also continues to spread the message of accomplishing goals to others. After battling depression during his college years at the University of Wisconsin, he is involved in helping those in the same situation.
"I learned a lot and keep learning," he said. "It's still always a process but I'm feeling good. Big picture, life is good. I can't really complain about making a dream come true. I remind myself of that if there are those down days and enjoy the highs when they come."
Wednesday night was one of those highs. Stiemsma was welcomed in the visitors locker room like a player who had given it his all, persevered through the pain, and showed hard work really does pay off.
"I felt like I deserved to be in this league and this was the place that agreed with me and gave me my shot," he said of the Celtics. "There's nothing but love for this city and the organization."

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

stevenspost428_1280x720_675984963910.jpg

Celtics make progress, but was it a successful season?

BOSTON – Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and is not always seen the same by NBA players – not even teammates.

That was certainly the case following Boston’s 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks which ended the Celtics season.

While Boston won more regular season games (48) than they did a year ago and put up a much better fight than last season's four-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, having the season end the way it did at home on Thursday clearly left a bitter taste in the mouths of most players.

Whether this was a successful season is open to debate.

But what’s abundantly clear for the Celtics is this team did indeed make progress from where they were a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland in the first round.

“You go from 40 (wins) – under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eeking  in at the end by winning six straight to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And so yes, there’s progress.”

But as far as this being a successful season, that’s not nearly as cut and dry.

“Of course it’s only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s’ when you hold that trophy up,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “So, until we do that, it’s not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a slightly different opinion on the matter.

“I don’t look at it as a failure, for sure,” Smart said. “We did a lot of great things this season. We’re a young team. That’s good for us coming back. We have a lot of work to do obviously, but I don’t look at the season as a failure. So I guess you can say it was a success for us.”

But looking at how this season ended, while disappointing, serves as a reminder as to how Boston remains a team with talent but plenty of room to grow.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right?” Stevens said. “One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in right now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there. And the next one is tough. And that’s been communicated before to me and we’re learning a lot. We learned a lot through this playoff series, but one of the things that I’ve learned is we’ve got to get better. And you know what? That starts with me. I’ve got to get better, and then I think each of our players will look at that accountably as well and we’re all going to be better the next time we take the court.”

And in doing so, look to build off the progress made this season and inch closer towards having a successful season which around here more often than not, means competing for an NBA title.

That’s why for Jared Sullinger, one of the few remaining players from the Big Three era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen when deep postseason runs were an expectation and not a goal, he doesn’t see this season as being a successful one for the Green team.

“If we’re thinking making it to the playoffs is a successful season, then we’re going in the wrong direction,” Sullinger said. “If you look in this locker room, you see everybody’s down. We didn’t want it to end like that; we wanted to make a run. It’s tough losing like that.”

Sullinger added, “last year we were glad to make the playoffs. This year, we wanted to make a run, we wanted to make some noise. Unfortunately, our noise got cut short.”

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

stayorgo4281461903850636_3450k_1280x720_676013123636.jpg

C you next season?: Future is unclear for several Celtics

BOSTON – There are few guarantees when it comes to the NBA and the Boston Celtics, but one thing’s for certain: change is going to come next season.

This is especially true for the Celtics whose season ended with a 104-92 Game 6 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sending the C’s home for the season with a second straight first round exit.

“That’s just the business of the NBA,” said Isaiah Thomas who had a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists which were both game highs on Thursday. “One thing I do know, I ride with these guys until the wheels fall off; I mean this was a special group.”

But whether they stay together remains to be seen.

Among those who could be on the move is Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent this summer.

He will be among the more heavily pursued Celtics this summer, in large part because of his versatility as both a playmaker and scoring guard off the bench.

Several teams will come hard after Turner, among them being the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic who are desperate to add talented, proven veterans to their young rosters.

The second year of Jonas Jerebko’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster after July 3. Considering the way he played in the postseason as well as his steady presence during the regular season, the Celtics are more than likely to keep him around for next season.

Boston has a pair of restricted free agents in Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger. It is unclear what the Celtics will do with them because it remains to be seen what type of offers (if any) they receive from another team.

“This season didn’t go exactly how I would have wanted it to,” Zeller told CSNNE.com. “But I like it here, I like the coaching staff and the players. So we’ll see what happens this summer. But yeah, I’m definitely open to the idea of coming back next season.”

There’s a certain amount of uncertainty surrounding Amir Johnson who could potentially become a free agent this summer if the Celtics decline to pick up the second year on his contract which is worth $12 million.

When I asked Johnson if he felt he had done enough to have to his second year picked up by the Celtics he told CSNNE.com, “I hope so.”

Johnson added, “We never quit even when we were down big at the end of the game. I feel there’s stuff we can clean up and be better, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office. But there’s something about this team, we don’t have no quit in us. I feel like we can definitely go far if we just put the right pieces together.”

And as far as his future in Boston, “I definitely want to here.”

Only time will tell just how many of Boston’s potential free agents will be riding with the Green Team next season, or be swept away and wind up on another roster in what will surely be an offseason of change.