Stiemsma shows his skills in spot start for Celtics


Stiemsma shows his skills in spot start for Celtics

BOSTON A couple weeks ago, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers needed to make a point to rookie center Greg Stiemsma.

He is a solid defender, and a really good shot-blocker.

But he also can shoot the ball, a point that Rivers has struggled at times to get Stiemsma to buy into.

"We had a silly day," Rivers said, "where he wouldn't shoot and I made him stand in front of the whole team and say, 'My name is Greg Stiemsma and I am a shooter.' And we kept making him repeat it."

Stiemsma appears to have gotten the message on Monday, as he replaced Jermaine O'Neal (hamstring) in the starting lineup in Monday's 100-92 win over Washington.

The 6-foot-11 rookie responded with a career-high 13 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in his first NBA start.

"He does what he does," Rivers said of Stiemsma. "For him, the game is simple. He knows what he does. You rarely see him do anything else. He blocks shots; he tries to rebound. He makes these shots."

Rivers said the decision to go with Stiemsma was made during the team's walk-through.

"I just literally walked up to him in our walk-through and said, 'Greg, you're at the 5,'" recalled Rivers.

Stiemsma was excited, but didn't show it.

"This whole time here has been about opportunities," Stiemsma said. "I just look at it as another one."

And that opportunity involves making an impact at both ends of the floor.

Naturally, Celtics players were happy about the win as well as the role Stiemsma played in it.

"I'm happy for Greg," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "You see a guy come in here, come from the bottom, coming from nothing, he's very appreciative of his opportunity. He comes in and works his ass off; he's a true professional. You're just happy to see a guy get an opportunity like that, and more important, take advantage of it."

As well as Stiesma played on Monday and for that matter this season - he came into the game as the NBA's leader in blocked shots (3.3) per game among rookies and second overall - don't expect for Rivers to make a change at center anytime soon.

"JO is our starter," Rivers said.

Starter or backup, Stiemsma's even-keeled demeanor isn't likely to change.

"With every opportunity I've had I feel like I've tried to step up to the plate and come out and perform well and tonight was another opportunity," Stiemsma said. "I was happy to get the opportunity and to play well on top of that."

But there is a definite downside to Stiemsma's emergence for the Celtics.

"What I hate now, everybody knows who Greg is," Garnett said. "He's not our big secret anymore."

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship


Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told on Wednesday.
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”