Greg Stiemsma spent the first half of his rookie season sitting next to Chris Wilcox in the Boston Celtics locker room.
When Wilcox underwent season-ending cardiac surgery to repair an enlarged aorta in March and was waived to create space on the Celtics roster, Stiemsma lost one of his veteran go-to teammates temporarily.
Wilcox returned to the TD Garden on Sunday night to support the Celtics during their Game 4 win over the Atlanta Hawks. He previously visited the Cs for their regular season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks last month. Each time, Wilcox has shared advice and observations with the eager-to-listen Stiemsma.
Sometimes when you kind of take a step away from the game, you can really notice a lot more things, Stiemsma told CSNNE.com following Game 4. He told me a few things earlier tonight and just a few minutes ago, too. Hes been keeping close tabs on us. Hes been through it, hes been in the league for a while, and he has the knowledge to pass on.
Wilcox, 29, was in his 10th NBA season prior to the surgery. Stiemsma, a 26-year-old rookie, took mental notes from his fellow big man. His role has increased following the departures of Wilcox and Jermaine ONeal (wrist).
Ive just got to stay active, Stiemsma said. I think thats one of the things I tried to follow his lead on. When he was on the floor, he was always making guys guard him. So Ive tried to do a little more of that lately, just be a presence.
Stiemsma has kept in touch with Wilcox through text messages. He welcomes having Wilcox around again before and after games to offer the veteran advice he provided for much of Stiemsmas rookie season.
Its great, said Stiemsma. Add him to the list (laughs). With all this experience in this locker room, the leadership has been unbelievable. These guys really care. They want to see us do well. Thats the biggest thing theyre sincere about not just saying this to tell the young guys; they really want to see us do well and succeed.