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

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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."

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.