The Boston Celtics visit to Milwaukee for Thursdays game against the Bucks will be a homecoming for rookie Greg Stiemsma and a return to where it all began for veteran Ray Allen.
Stiemsma grew up in the small village of Randolph outside of Milwaukee and played college basketball at the University of Wisconsin. As a hoops fan, he watched Allen light up the court for over six years with the Bucks. Now as a member of the Celtics, Stiemsma has spent his first NBA season sitting next to Allen in the locker room.
Growing up in Wisconsin, we kind of ride around our sports teams a little bit, Stiemsma told CSNNE.com. How can you not like a guy like Ray? He plays the game the right way, one of the purest shooters the game has ever seen. Hes a hard guy not to like and look up to, no matter what position you play.
Meeting Ray kind of was surreal at first, Stiemsma continued. But I kind of tried to, not hide those feelings, but I tried to be professional about this whole situation. I was a big fan of KG (Kevin Garnett) and all these guys. Even through college, when I watched the NBA I liked watching these guys play because theyre the best in the business. To be a part of it and to be on the floor with them at the same time, its an honor. But at the same time its my job, too.
Allen appreciates the long road Stiemsma has taken to the NBA. After playing professional basketball overseas, the 26-year-old rookie finally has the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd that has supported him since he was a high school standout, leading his team to three straight Division 4 state titles.
I think just the simple fact that he played overseas and was in that predicament trying to get to the NBA, he doesnt hold a privileged mentality about being here, Allen told CSNNE.com. He has a grateful disposition. Hes happy to be here, so he listens to everything you tell him. You always notice when you tell young guys, sometimes they dont want to listen to you. They have that type of approach or disposition about them that it makes you not want to tell them anything. But Greg is always open and receptive because I guess he does know where he comes from and he wants to stay around.
Stiemsma has become more comfortable with his teammates as the season goes on. Allen has encouraged him to ask questions and reach out to the veterans around him on a daily basis.
The knowledge is invaluable as Stiemsmas role has increased due to the season-ending losses of Jermaine ONeal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (heart condition). Over the last five contests he is averaging 3.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in 16.6 minutes per game compared to his average of 2.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 10.7 minutes.
I think it helps the adjustment, getting used to it and being one of the guys, not feeling like an outsider or the rookie or the young guy, said Stiemsma. Theyve all been more than welcoming.
There will be a large crowd of fans cheering for their hometown success story on Thursday in Milwaukee. And there will be another group of supporters on the court as well.
Greg knows the way I give you my information, Im not doing it to make myself sound good, look good, or I want to hear myself talk, said Allen. I want you to do well, be successful, make a lot of money, be around for a long time. He definitely should be around for a long time.