So long, Greg Stiemsma

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So long, Greg Stiemsma

Over the weekend, Greg Stiemsma reportedly agreed to terms with the Timberwolves. But this afternoon, The Stiemer made his move to Minnesota as they say on the "Internet" Twitter official:

I"m very grateful to the Celtics and the City of Boston, but I'm very excited to be the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves! Greg Stiemsma (@gregstiemsma) July 24, 2012
God speed, Stiemer. God Shamgod speed.

Despite spending only one abbreviated season in Boston, we won't soon forget Stiemsma's time with the Celtics.

His presence almost immediately piqued the interest of fans. In some part due to his unique name. In some part, if we're being honest, due to the color of his skin. For those first few weeks, most of us figured he'd spend the season as a seven-foot Brian Scalabrine. The team's newest victory cigar. And we loved it. Stiemsma Fever was more contagious than the Motaba virus.

But it didn't take long to figure out that, above all else, the guy could actually play. That while he was far from an All-Star, Stiemsma was an exceptional shot blocker and a solid rebounder. That despite possessing one of the ugliest "jump" shots this side of Luke Harangody, he also had a pretty decent touch.

The shot blocking was what stood out to Tommy Heinsohn:
"His timing and how he goes about blocking shots does remind me of (Bill) Russell."

Yeeikes.

Tommy obviously meant no harm by the comparison, but it was one of the worst things to happen to Stiemsma in terms how he was perceived by people in Boston. StiemsmaRussell became a thing. Even though no one actually believed he was the next Bill Russell, people became obsessed with pointing out that he wasn't.

He'd make a big block or grab a big rebound and someone was always there with a sarcastic: "Haha! There's the next Bill Russell!" It was a lot more fun to joke about that ridiculous comparison than to see Stiemsma's emergence for what it was. An unbelievable story.

Here's a guy who was undrafted in 2008, then went to play in Turkey, did two stints in South Korea, played a season in the D-League and then went back to Turkey. A guy who in the midst of all his world traveling, signed contracts with the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but was cut both times before ever seeing the court. A guy who might have run out of chances if he hadn't caught the eye of the Celtics who were in desperate need of one more big man at last summer's Pan-Am Games (where he shot an absurd .889 from the field).

Less than a month after signing with Boston, Stiemsma found himself in the starting line-up alongside Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Think about that for a second. From Seoul to sharing the floor with three and a half Hall of Famers.

Stiemer wasn't a season-long staple in the Celtics rotation, though. In fact, there were long stretches when Doc Rivers moved away from him entirely. For the year, Stiemsma only averaged 13.9 minutes a game. That's fewer minutes than Keyon Dooling. Barely a minute more than Marquis Daniels. But he made the minutes count.

For instance, of the NBA's top 30 shot blockers last year, Stiemsma who ranked 14th was the only one who averaged less than 20 minutes a game. He blocked more shots in 13.9 minutes (1.55) than Marcus Camby did in 22.9 minutes, Joakim Noah did in 30.4 minutes and Tyson Chandler did in 33.2. Only Serge Ibaka averaged more blocks per 48 minutes than Stiemsma's 5.33.

By the time, Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal were done for the season, and Kevin Garnett settled in at the starting center, Stiemsma assumed the role of Boston's sixth man. Not in the traditional sense, but as part of Garnett's 5-5-5 plan Stiemer was technically always the first man off Boston's bench, and almost always provided solid minutes. He continued that role throughout most of the playoffs, until a few tough match-ups and more foot pain than he ever let on forced him out of the rotation.

He only played 2:08 in the C's Game 7 loss in Miami. The final 2:08 of his Celtics career. But over his one abbreviated season in Boston, Stiemsma proved a lot.

First, that he's not Bill Russell. But more importantly, that he IS an NBA player. That he DOES belong in this league. That the next time he's in Turkey or South Korea it will be on vacation.

Sure, it would have been nice to see him continue his career with the Celtics, but considering how far he came, it's just great to see him have a career at all. And there's no question that regardless of where he's playing, Stiemsma will always have fans here in Boston.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

BOSTON – The wait is finally over for the Boston Celtics and Avery Bradley.

Bradley will return to the Celtics starting lineup tonight after having missed the previous 18 games (and 22 out of 23) with a right Achilles injury.

“I’m excited to be back out there,” Bradley said. “I can’t wait for the game to start.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will play with a minutes restriction for the first week, and adjust accordingly.

“I wanted to come back four weeks ago,” Bradley said. “But I have to do what’s smartest. Those (medical) guys know better than me. It was tough listening to them. But we came to a compromise I guess you could say and I can play tonight. I’m happy with that decision.”

Bradley said the training staff wanted him to get more practices playing at the level he’s accustomed to, prior to returning to action.

But with the Celtics’ schedule, practice time would be few and far between so limiting his minutes initially is indeed a compromise of sorts.

Although rookie Jaylen Brown has done a solid job filling in for Bradley with the first unit, Stevens had every intention of Bradley returning as a starter.

“He’s our starting two-guard,” Stevens said. “We started the year really well as far as that group playing together. We haven’t had that group playing together very often. Jaylen and Marcus (Smart) are both able to give us a lot off the bench as well as if we need to plug them into a (starting) lineup later on. We feel good about that.”

As far as handling Bradley’s minutes this week, Stevens has a very simple approach to what he needs to do.

“I’m just going to play him in the first couple of stints,” Stevens said. “And when his minutes run out he won’t play anymore. It is hard if you’re trying to save minutes for the end. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense with getting stiff, sitting for a long time, coming off a long lay-off.”

Bradley is the Celtics’ second-leading scorer at 17.7 points per game along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds. A first-team All-NBA Defender last season, Bradley is also shooting a career-high 40.9 percent from 3-point range.

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

BOSTON -- No matter what Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder say, you get the feeling there’s still some bad blood between these two.
 
It goes back to the playoffs last season when Thomas slapped Schroder in the face and extended into their last meeting in which Schroder said Thomas spoke unkind words about his family in Atlanta (allegations that Thomas has repeatedly denied).
 
Following Atlanta’s shoot-around this morning, Schroder doubled down on his previous comments about Thomas having said things about his family.
 
“Everybody heard it, too,” Schroder said earlier today. “My family sat courtside too. Thabu (Sefolosha) heard some things; he was involved in that. It is what it is. We just try to compete and it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is.”
 
I asked Thomas about the Schroder allegations following Boston’s 104-98 win at Detroit on Sunday night.
 
“Man, I’m past that. I’m not worried about that guy,” Thomas said. “Once he did that the last game, where he tried to damage my character, (saying I was) talking about his parents … I’m past that. Hopefully we can beat the Atlanta Hawks. I’m not even worried about him.”
 
Schroder speaks a similar tone about his approach to tonight’s game.
 
Boston (38-21) is looking to build off the win at Detroit which snapped a two-game losing streak.
 
Meanwhile, the Hawks (32-26) have lost three straight -- each defeat by at least 15 points -- and four of their last five.
 
In the last two losses, Schroder was suspended for one game because he missed practice following the All-Star break (he told the Hawks there was a visa mix-up) and was late arriving to the team bus for another so he began that game on the bench.
 
That’s why the beef that still exist between both players isn’t likely to be a major deal tonight; at least that’s what they want us to believe.
 
“We gotta win,” Schroder said. “We lost two in a row after All-Star break. I think the team is more important than a player on the other team. We just focus on winning this game and try to compete for 48 minutes.”
 
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer will be the first to tell you that Schroder’s competitive drive is among the reasons the franchise hasn’t looked back on its decision to trade all-star Jeff Teague and give Schroder the keys to running the team.
 
He has certainly had his moments when that decision might be questioned, but for the most part he has shown the kind of growth individually that they were hoping for as a full-time starter.
 
This season he’s averaging career highs in scoring (17.4) and assists (6.3) per game.
 
However, Atlanta hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success this year that we’ve seen from them recently.
 
A fixture among the top two or three teams the past couple of years, they are currently fifth in the NBA, trailing East-leading Cleveland by 8.5 games and the No. 2 Celtics by 5.5 games.
 
And while Boston does have a nice cushion with 24 games left to play, they know a strong finish will position them to better control their postseason destiny -- something that hasn’t been the case the past couple of seasons in which Boston began the playoffs on the road as a lower seed.
 
As much as the need to win will be front and center tonight, all eyes will be on the two point guards.
 
But in the end, both understand that tonight’s game isn’t about which of them can out-perform the other.
 
“Dennis is a competitive guy, as is Isaiah,” Budenholzer said. “They both are more concerned about their teams and what’s best for their teams.”