Stiemsma shows his skills in spot start for Celtics

Stiemsma shows his skills in spot start for Celtics
January 3, 2012, 5:32 am
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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."

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