BOSTON -- Greg Stiemsmas NBA career got a jumpstart at the start of the season when Celtics broadcaster and Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn made a comparison between him and Bill Russell.
Since then, the 26-year-old rookie center has been shaking his head at the reference, trying to wrap his mind around the compliment after fighting for years overseas to make it in the NBA.
On Wednesday, Stiemsma had the opportunity to not only see Russell in person, but also play just feet away from him. Russell was in attendance for the Boston Celtics - Detroit Pistons game in which he was honored during Mentoring Night for his participation in the Bill Russell Legacy Project.
Man, when that comparison was made I said it was so outside of my realm that I would ever imagine, Stiemsma told CSNNE.com following the Cs 98-88 loss. So just seeing him in the stands tonight, hes one of the best players ever in the game. Hes been a big-time teacher to a lot of guys, and a lot of guys have modeled their game after him. Just for him to be in the stands, to be part of this, to wear the same uniform and all that, its still an honor to me.
While Stiemsma blocks out the crowd when he was playing, he was excited to learn before the game that Russell was in the building. The two did not speak, but Stiemsma hopes to pick his brain if he comes back to TD Garden this season.
Hes definitely one of those guys who made the league what it is, he said. He made those big strides for it so its hard for a big guy at some point not to look to Bill Russell.
Stiemsma scored one point and grabbed two rebounds in 13 minutes against the Pistons. He is averaging 1.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in 22 games this season. Humbled by any comparison, he is appreciative of the reference after a long road to Boston.
Its quite a big step or quite a big change from even a year ago at this time or five years ago this time, he said. Its all part of the journey. Its all part of the experience. Im enjoying it as much as I can.