Danny Ainge has been looking for a backup center for five years. This year he had one fall into his lap. When the Boston Celtics won the title in 2008 it was thanks in no small part to backup center P.J. Brown. Ainge had coaxed Brown out of retirement after the All-Star break and the 15 year veteran went on to have an excellent playoff run for Boston, including hitting a huge shot to help them get past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. Brown went back to retirement after finally winning his first championship, and Ainge has been looking for another backup center ever since. This year he finally found one in Greg Stiemsma.
In 2009 Ainge tried to replace Brown with undersized youngsters Leon Powe and Glen Davis. Powe and Kevin Garnett got injured and the Celtics ran out bodies and lost to Orlando in the second round. In 2010 he signed in Rasheed Wallace and Shelden Williams. Neither were particularly effective and the Celtics lost to the L.A. Lakers in game seven of the NBA finals. In 2011 Ainge brought in Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Neither were able to stay healthy and the Celtics were bounced in the second round by the Miami Heat. This year Ainge went with Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass, and as an after thought extended a tryout invitation to a kid named Greg Stiemsma. After missing on all the his previous attempts, Ainge finally got his man in a kid that had been kicking around the D-League for four years. Go figure.
Stiemsma made the team out of training camp. He had a few strong games early, but he had really been buried on the bench by the All-Star break. Then season ending injuries to O'Neal and Wilcox forced Stiemsma into a larger role, and he has taken the backup center minutes and ran with them. Coach Doc Rivers was basically out of options. He had no choice but to turn to Stiemsma after O'Neal was injured for the umpteenth time. And somehow Stiemsma has been better than any bench big Rivers has had in the last five years.
Stiemsma blocks shots, rebounds, and hits open jumpers. In other words, he's the perfect backup center. Ainge has been scouring the free agent market for five years trying to find this guy. He missed on Williams, Sheed, Shaq, and JO, but he struck gold with "Goldy Blocks." How much sense does this make? Absolutely none. Ainge couldn't didn't find the backup center he wanted in former All-Stars, but found him in a kid from the D-League. It would be unbelievable if it weren't actually happening. If people couldn't see it with their own eyes they wouldn't believe it, but it's true.
Stiemsma just has a natural talent for blocking shots, and if he weren't getting no respect from NBA officials he'd be swatting even more of them. The impact his shot blocking has on a game cannot be understated. In the Celtics most recent win it was Stiemsma who turned the game around. The Celtics had gone cold late in the third quarter, then Stiemsma came up with two huge blocks on Earl Clark and Ryan Anderson, igniting a 10-0 Boston run. They never trailed again. 'Sheed wasn't able to have this kind of impact, neither was Shaq or J.O. Yet somehow Stiemsma has given the Celtics exactly what they need out of their backup center. Ainge has been trying so hard to fill this role for five years. He signed former All-Stars and former lottery picks, but it wasn't until he stopped looking that he finally found his guy. Greg Stiemsma was what Ainge was looking for, who woulda thunk it. It's a good thing JO got injured or Stiemer might never have gotten a chance.
Tags: Basketball, Boston, Boston Celtics, NBA