BOSTON -- As the Celtics look ahead to the playoffs, Greg Stiemsma has become a key member of their bench. With Kevin Garnett as the center in a smaller starting lineup following the season-ending wrist injury of Jermaine O'Neal, the 6-11 rookie gives the C's size and defense in their second unit.
Stiemsma has an intense drive to block every shot that comes his way. But in his first year in the NBA, he has learned he has to find the balance between a clean shot and a foul.
He picked up five fouls in 24 minutes during the Celtics 103-79 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. This season he has fouled out of three games, picked up five fouls in five contests, and is averaging over three a game in March and April as his role increases.
Thats my job, said Stiemsma. It usually happens in the late part of my minutes and I know Im coming out. If I get my sixth foul, Im at least going to try to make it worth it.
Stiemsma has studied game film to analyze his foul troubles. While he doesnt see a specific trend, he has put in extra work on his timing.
"Maybe if I get to look for a block too late, then I sometimes tend to come down a little bit," he said. But I dont know. Even sometimes I still try to jump straight up or jump backwards so Im not the one creating contact, so Ive got to do a better job of that.
With a lack of practice time this season, Stiemsma has been visually learning from the bench. He has paid close attention to Kevin Garnett and his defensive moves.
Im trying to be as much like Kevin as I can, he said. Hes in the right spots all the time. His defensive positioning is right all the time, so if I can get to that level, its going to be tough to not have me on the floor.
With a combination of his experience and learning from those of his teammates, Stiemsma hopes to continue being an effective shot blocker.
Im going to keep playing, Stiemsma said. Im not going to change my style of game. Ill obviously try to be a little bit smarter about it, but at times, too, I dont know what I could do differently to not put myself in that situation.
Thank God they give you six instead of four or five (laughs).