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."

Felger: Bottom's always up with Bruins

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Felger: Bottom's always up with Bruins

Peter Chiarelli may be long gone from Causeway Street, but his spirit lives on. 

If someone can explain to me the Bruins' fascination with bottom-of-the-roster veterans with average talent, then I'd love to hear it. I used to think it was the problem of Chiarelli, the B's former general manager. But now I have to wonder if it's just in the water down there. And current GM Don Sweeney is chugging it.

I have no other explanation for the team's decision to sign defenseman Kevan Miller to a four-year (four!) extension worth $10 million yesterday. Miller is a nice role piece. But how that translates to four guaranteed years when he will turn 29 early next season and the Bruins have massive holes throughout their roster is beyond me. 

What's more, the B's already have nearly the identical player in Adam McQuaid, who is roughly the same age, same size, same shot (right), same injury history (poor) and plays the same role (bottom pairing, right side). McQuaid is a little less skilled than Miller, so of course, using Bruins logic, he makes a little more ($2.75 million). But McQuaid also got four years when he re-signed prior to last season.

Certainly, contracts worth $2-3 million annually aren't going to ruin your cap in a vacuum. But start adding them up you see how the Bruins got into trouble in the first place. Combine McQuaid and Miller's hits and you have $5.25 million of valuable space chewed up against the cap. Basically, that's the price of a solid, top-4 defenseman, which the Bruins need ten times more than a depth piece.

Scary. The Bruins currently don't have a No. 1 or a No. 2 defensemen. (Sorry, Bruins writers, Zdeno Chara belongs on a second pairing right now.) Yet they have decided to lock themselves up with a pair of No. 6 guys who basically duplicate each other. Again, why do the B's continue to overpay the bottom of the depth chart when the top is so lousy?

It's one thing for Chiarelli to overcommit to the likes of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Dan Paille, Greg Campbell, Dennis Seidenberg, etc. Those guys at least helped you win a Cup and get to another final. From an emotional standpoint, you can explain those mistakes. But Miller? He's been a part of one of the worst defense corps in the league the last few years. He's been on a team that has failed to make the playoffs two consecutive seasons. How do you fall in love with that guy?

Please don't tell me that Miller would have gotten that contract on the open market. I mean, it's true; he probably would have. But what does that matter? Does that mean it's a good deal? Just because Colorado was willing to pay Carl Soderberg just under $5 million a season, does that mean the B's should have paid the middling centerman that money last year? Of course not. Use your head. Just because someone else gets stupid doesn't mean you have to.

You shudder to think what's coming next. Loui Eriksson is still out there as a pending free agent. Ditto for Torey Krug. On a good team, the former is a third liner and the latter is another third-pairing guy. Neither have been good enough to lift the B's above the playoff line the last two years despite playing prominent roles. Both are about to get overpaid on the market . . . unless the B's step in first and insist on being the team that gets stupid and overcommits first.

Given what we've seen with Miller, how can anyone be confident that the B's will be smart enough to pass? My confidence level on this is somewhere around 0.0.

Which is exactly how much cap space the B's will have left with this approach.

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

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

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Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A former Major League Baseball player is running for governor in Vermont as a member of the Liberty Union party, which bills itself as nonviolent and socialist.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee tells WCAX-TV voters will "need umbrellas" if he's elected, because "it's going to be raining dollars," referring to money trickling down from the wealthy.

Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lee says he's a "pragmatic, conservative, forward thinker." He supports legalizing marijuana, a single-payer health care system and paid family leave.

Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find relief help?

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Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find relief help?

Jared Carrabis joins Sports Tonight to discuss the news that Carson Smith will undergo Tommy John surgery, and whether he has faith that Dombrowski will be able to find bullpen help.