Stiemsma overcomes obstacle course to stick with C's

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Stiemsma overcomes obstacle course to stick with C's

BOSTON For Greg Stiemsma, every time he looks in the mirror and sees it - a highlighter-thick scar that runs several inches north and south along his midsection - it is a reminder of how fortunate he is to be here.
Not just in the NBA - but alive.
It is a scar left behind from surgery performed when he was 12 years old to remove a large cyst on his spleen that was first discovered when he fell during a Fourth of July fireworks event not too far from his Randolph, Wis. home.
"It was like the size of a honey dew or muskmelon," Stiemsma told CSNNE.com. "It was that big. If I would have never . . . it could have potentially killed me at the time if it ruptured at the wrong time or if I took a shot to the ribs or something."
These days, having good health isn't nearly as big a concern for the 6-foot-11 center.
Instead, the 26-year-old rookie is more focused on trying to find his way on to the court and help the Celtics (4-5) win games.
Stiemsma had a good preseason and would be the only training camp invitee to stick once rosters had to be trimmed.
He wound up making his lone NBA start in a 100-92 win over Washington on Jan. 2. In that game, Stiemsma filled in for Jermaine O'Neal (hamstring) and finished with career-highs in scoring (13), rebounds (7) and minutes played (21).
"What I hate now," Kevin Garnett said after the win, "is that everybody knows who Greg is. He's not our big secret anymore."
KG's right.
"You don't prepare for Stiemsma the way you would, say, Orlando's Dwight Howard or Washington's JaVale McGee, obviously," a scout told CSNNE.com recently. "But you know he's a guy that does one thing -- block shots -- and he does that really well. You have to account for him and that particular talent, when preparing for the Celtics now."
Said Stiemsma: "I just have to stay ready, whenever my name is called, whenever my opportunity to play comes. That's why I'm still here; just making sure I'm ready when a chance to play, to help this team, presents itself."
As Stiemsma weaves his way through the ups and downs that have come with being a professional basketball player, making the most of limited opportunities has been a common thread that binds all of his experiences.
After winning three state high school championships, Stiemsma went about an hour drive south on US-151 to play for the Wisconsin Badgers at nearby Madison.
While appearing in 85 games in college, Stiemsma never averaged more than 3.5 points per game.
And his shot-blocking prowess?
His best season in that category came in 2005-06, when he averaged 1.5 per game.
Even with the limited role he had in college, Stiemsma always had dreams that someday he would play in the NBA.
However, he's quick to tell you that he hasn't always been so optimistic.
"I've had some tough times, for sure," he said.
In college, poor grades - and the possibility of being kicked out of school - sent him into a major funk emotionally.
"I just felt like lying in bed all day," Stiemsma told SI.com in an interview while at Wisconsin. "Didn't want to see anybody, didn't want to talk to anybody. No TV, no radio, ignoring phone calls. It was only for a few hours but it didn't seem long enough. If I didn't have to go to practice that day, I might not have come out at all."
That all changed after a school psychiatrist diagnosed him as having depression."It felt like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders," he said. "I was finally able to get on the right track, get some help and start feeling better."
Learning how to handle setbacks would prove to be an invaluable lesson during his basketball odyssey that now finds him playing for the most title-rich franchise in NBA history.
"Even looking back, six months, eight months, this summer, last year being in Turkey and . . . it was an up-and-down year with a lot of guys coming in and out," said Stiemsma, who was the 2010 D-League Defensive Player of the Year with the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce. "I didn't get much playing time; didn't get much of an opportunity for playing time. There were times when I said to myself, 'Do I really want to do this? Put up with all this? Kind of living overseas and all the other stuff?' "
He added, "I just kept believing that someday, I was going to be here (in the NBA). So here I am."
When he got to Celtics training camp, Stiemsma quickly became a favorite of the coaching staff as well as the players.
"I like some of the things he can do," said coach Doc Rivers. "We have to convince him, what he can do. He's a terrific shooter from the elbows. He's not a post player at all. But he's a terrific shot blocker. We have to get him comfortable, when he's open, shoot it. It happens, even with veterans, when you play with Kevin and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce; you almost feel like you're not worthy to take an open shot."
One of Stiemsma's biggest supporters has been Garnett, who has been impressed with the rookie's knack for swatting shots.
"He has uncanny instincts, can block shots like no one I've ever seen," Garnett said.
Being in the NBA is a feat in itself.
For Garnett, the road Stiemsma took is even more impressive.
"He came from the bottom, came from nothing, very appreciative of his opportunity," Garnett said. "He comes in and works his ass off, a true professional. You're just happy to see a guy get an opportunity like that and more importantly, take advantage of it."
And while his minutes have fluctuated - he has only played a total of 22 minutes since his breakout game on Jan. 2 - Stiemsma won't complain or get frustrated with his uncertain role.
"I just have to wait for my opportunity, that's all," he said. "That's what I've done up to this point to get here. I'm not about to change up things now."

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
 
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
 
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.
 

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.