So long, Greg Stiemsma

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So long, Greg Stiemsma

Over the weekend, Greg Stiemsma reportedly agreed to terms with the Timberwolves. But this afternoon, The Stiemer made his move to Minnesota as they say on the "Internet" Twitter official:

I"m very grateful to the Celtics and the City of Boston, but I'm very excited to be the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves! Greg Stiemsma (@gregstiemsma) July 24, 2012
God speed, Stiemer. God Shamgod speed.

Despite spending only one abbreviated season in Boston, we won't soon forget Stiemsma's time with the Celtics.

His presence almost immediately piqued the interest of fans. In some part due to his unique name. In some part, if we're being honest, due to the color of his skin. For those first few weeks, most of us figured he'd spend the season as a seven-foot Brian Scalabrine. The team's newest victory cigar. And we loved it. Stiemsma Fever was more contagious than the Motaba virus.

But it didn't take long to figure out that, above all else, the guy could actually play. That while he was far from an All-Star, Stiemsma was an exceptional shot blocker and a solid rebounder. That despite possessing one of the ugliest "jump" shots this side of Luke Harangody, he also had a pretty decent touch.

The shot blocking was what stood out to Tommy Heinsohn:
"His timing and how he goes about blocking shots does remind me of (Bill) Russell."

Yeeikes.

Tommy obviously meant no harm by the comparison, but it was one of the worst things to happen to Stiemsma in terms how he was perceived by people in Boston. StiemsmaRussell became a thing. Even though no one actually believed he was the next Bill Russell, people became obsessed with pointing out that he wasn't.

He'd make a big block or grab a big rebound and someone was always there with a sarcastic: "Haha! There's the next Bill Russell!" It was a lot more fun to joke about that ridiculous comparison than to see Stiemsma's emergence for what it was. An unbelievable story.

Here's a guy who was undrafted in 2008, then went to play in Turkey, did two stints in South Korea, played a season in the D-League and then went back to Turkey. A guy who in the midst of all his world traveling, signed contracts with the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but was cut both times before ever seeing the court. A guy who might have run out of chances if he hadn't caught the eye of the Celtics who were in desperate need of one more big man at last summer's Pan-Am Games (where he shot an absurd .889 from the field).

Less than a month after signing with Boston, Stiemsma found himself in the starting line-up alongside Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Think about that for a second. From Seoul to sharing the floor with three and a half Hall of Famers.

Stiemer wasn't a season-long staple in the Celtics rotation, though. In fact, there were long stretches when Doc Rivers moved away from him entirely. For the year, Stiemsma only averaged 13.9 minutes a game. That's fewer minutes than Keyon Dooling. Barely a minute more than Marquis Daniels. But he made the minutes count.

For instance, of the NBA's top 30 shot blockers last year, Stiemsma who ranked 14th was the only one who averaged less than 20 minutes a game. He blocked more shots in 13.9 minutes (1.55) than Marcus Camby did in 22.9 minutes, Joakim Noah did in 30.4 minutes and Tyson Chandler did in 33.2. Only Serge Ibaka averaged more blocks per 48 minutes than Stiemsma's 5.33.

By the time, Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal were done for the season, and Kevin Garnett settled in at the starting center, Stiemsma assumed the role of Boston's sixth man. Not in the traditional sense, but as part of Garnett's 5-5-5 plan Stiemer was technically always the first man off Boston's bench, and almost always provided solid minutes. He continued that role throughout most of the playoffs, until a few tough match-ups and more foot pain than he ever let on forced him out of the rotation.

He only played 2:08 in the C's Game 7 loss in Miami. The final 2:08 of his Celtics career. But over his one abbreviated season in Boston, Stiemsma proved a lot.

First, that he's not Bill Russell. But more importantly, that he IS an NBA player. That he DOES belong in this league. That the next time he's in Turkey or South Korea it will be on vacation.

Sure, it would have been nice to see him continue his career with the Celtics, but considering how far he came, it's just great to see him have a career at all. And there's no question that regardless of where he's playing, Stiemsma will always have fans here in Boston.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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Blakely's five throughts from the Green and White Scrimmage

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BOSTON – As has been customary with the Celtics in recent years, their open practice on Friday night featured a pair of 10-minute scrimmages pitting the “Green” team of starters against the “White” team of reserves.
 
The White team, which apparently has been kicking the Green team’s butt for a good chunk of camp, emerged with a 33-26 win. And the Green team had to rally to win the second scrimmage, 24-18.

Similar to summer league, you can’t read too much into what happened and what didn’t happen on Friday night.
 
That said, there were a number of clear and undeniable positives for the Celtics to take from the game and hopefully build upon them going forward.
 
 
5. Al Horford's leadership established
 
The first player’s voice that the 6,000-plus fans at the TD Garden heard from was Al Horford and don’t think for a minute that was just happenstance.
 
For all the scoring and rebounding and defending that the Celtics will look for Horford to do, it is his ability to lead this team that separates him from most of his NBA brethren.
 
The fact that he’s a four-time All-Star speaks to what he has done in this league as a player. But even more telling is that was the fact that he’s been to the playoffs every year he has been in the NBA. And during that span of nine years, he has been pivotal in leading Atlanta beyond the first round – a primary goal for him and the Celtics this season – five times.
 
 
4. Celtics defense could be an elite unit this season
 
The Celtics were a top-10 defensive team last season, and have every reason to believe that they’ll be even better now. Boston has a trio of Pit Bull-like defenders on the perimeter in Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and All-NBA first team defender Avery Bradley. Throw in Jae Crowder’s defensive versatility at the wing along with a pair of upper echelon rim-protectors in Amir Johnson and Al Horford and the Celtics no longer are a team that can put a couple good defenders on the floor at one time. They actually have the depth now to go with a ‘Big’ all-defensive team or a ‘small ball’ all-defensive team which provides the kind of versatility that should result in Boston being a top-3 defensive team this season.
 
 
3. Marcus Smart poised for breakout season
 
Smart seemed about as comfortable as we’ve seen him on Friday, showcasing his range as a shooter while still being able to get after it defensively. Based on what he has done in terms of improving his game, Smart seems more likely to play off the ball than on it. With his size, strength, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Boston does indeed have one of those magical-type seasons, Smart is a player that has the potential to help significantly. He understands the Celtics’ system inside and out, and is doing what young players on the rise should do – show growth as a player.
 
 
2. James Young playing best basketball at right time
 
These are some pretty stressful times for James Young, but you wouldn’t know it by the extremely cool demeanor he has exuded. Although it has only been a few short days of training camp, James Young has stepped up his game knowing anything less than his best could result in him being waived and potentially on his way out of the NBA. During the first Green-White scrimmage on Friday night, Danny Ainge said there were five guys essentially fighting for two roster spots. He didn’t single out Young specifically, but it’s no secret that the 21-year-old who is heading into third NBA season is among the players in that group. To Young's credit, he's doing a lot of those little things such as playing solid defense, getting deflections and making "hockey assists" to show he belongs in the NBA and more significantly, should remain a Celtic. 
  
1. Terry Rozier's tremendous strides
 
Rozier was the star of the two scrimmages the Celtics put on in front of about 6,000 people at the TD Garden Friday night. He scored, got assists, rebounded … he did it all. What impressed me the most about him was his defense on Isaiah Thomas. Rozier loves Thomas and respects the hell out of him. But Rozier  has made no secret about wanting to get more playing time this year, and is out to snatch some of the minutes from anyone ahead of him, Thomas included. We saw the tenacious potential Rozier has as an on-the-ball defender, but he seems to have taken that up a notch from his rookie season. And the confidence he has in his shot-making is undeniable. We saw that in summer league and it’s good to see that he brought it with him into training camp. Ditto for his decision-making and leading of the team at the point which are also areas in which he has improved but still needs to continue to get better at on a more consistent basis. There’s no doubt at this point Rozier will play this season and likely get a lion’s share of the minutes vacated by Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.