Stiemsma won't relinquish minutes easily

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Stiemsma won't relinquish minutes easily

ATLANTA There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time.

But recognizing that moment and knowing how to respond to it is an entirely different matter.

Boston Celtics rookie Greg Stiemsma has been in position to play for the C's this season because of injuries to more seasoned veterans. But the opportunity to play means little by itself.

What this rookie has done of late for the Celtics goes beyond just making good on a chance to see more action.

He has grabbed opportunity by the throat and doesn't appear willing to let go anytime soon, even as the Celtics scour the free agent market in search of another big man whose arrival will surely impact Stiemsma's minutes.

To his credit, he's not making it easy for the C's to pull the plug on his playing time.

"That's kind of been the motto; don't give them a reason to pull you out," Stiemsma told CSNNE.com. "Keep giving them lots of reasons to keep you on the floor. I feel like I've been doing a pretty good job of that lately."

With Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (heart condition) both out for the season, the 7-foot rookie has become the first -- and only -- big man off the bench.

Stiemsma has stepped his game up the last week or so, doing an even better job at what he does best -- blocking shots. In the C's last three games, he has 10.

He's currently second among all rookies with 1.25 blocks per game.

But among the four rookies averaging at least one blocked shot per game, Stiemsma's 10.7 minutes played per game is about half the amount of playing time that the other three rookies (Charlotte's Bismack Biyombo, 19.5 minutes per game; Cleveland's Tristan Thompson, 21 minutes per game; and Denver's Kenneth Faried, 19.9 minutes per game) are getting this season.

His play of late has certainly left a favorable impression on his teammates.

But more than that, it is the work that he has put into his game that has Kevin Garnett singing his praises.

"Steamboat's coming in, giving us what we need whether that's from his effort, his fight every night; whether it's blocking shots, rebounding, actually hitting the 15, 16-footers, being aggressive. That's what we need from him," Garnett said.

"He's been big for us since we've been coming down this stretch; second half he's been even more reliable. He's playing good basketball. We're all happy for him, just because you want to see the hard workers and the grinders of the league get an opportunity and he's taking his."

And Stiemsma's play, Garnett believes, should be rewarded this summer.

"I truly hope that Danny (Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations) rewards him at the end," said Garnett of Stiemsma. "If not us, somebody at the end of the year, gives him something long term to where he can build off of, substantial."

For now, Stiemsma is focused on doing whatever he can do to help the Celtics, preferably with him on the floor.

But if another big man arrives and takes some or all of his minutes away, he says you won't find him complaining or grumbling about his situation.

"I'll welcome him to the team, and hope he can help us win more games," Stiemsma said. "I'm not going to have any hard feelings or anything like that. This has been an amazing season for me, and I want it to keep going. I get to play with a great bunch of guys who have helped make me a much better player. Whatever is for the good of the team, I'm all for that."

Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

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Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week. 

Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.

Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons. 

Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.

Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England. 

Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

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Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter. 

Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well. 

The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season. 

Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.