BOSTON -- Back in Boston for the first time since signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves this past summer, Greg Stiemsma got the rock-star treatment at TD Garden, including the lone double-wide stall in the visitor's locker room -- a spot typically reserved for superstar opponents like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
What's more, a crowd of local reporters hovered around his locker before tip-off, waiting for him to finish getting his ankles taped at a nearby trainer's table before Wednesday's game against the Celtics.
"I think this is a first, this has got to be a first," the soft-talking Stiemsma said with a smile when asked if he was used to this sort of treatment on the road.
After toiling overseas and in the D-League, Stiemsma parlayed a solid NBA rookie campaign with the Celtics into a two-year, $5.3 million deal with the Timberwolves. Cap-strapped Boston knew it had little chance of retaining the 27-year-old 7-footer if another team made anything more than a minimum-contract offer and begrudgingly waved goodbye to a player that had emerged as a top frontcourt reserve by season's end.
Boston coach Doc Rivers didn't begrudge Stiemsma for cashing in.
"I’d love to have him here, but I’m just happy for him," Rivers said. "He’s a great kid. So, listen, he took advantage of a great situation and I’m glad he did. He was terrific here."
Stiemsma's stat line in Boston doesn't jump off the page -- 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game -- but his steady (yet foul prone) defense was needed in an injury-ravaged frontcourt.
Stiemsma had injury issues of his own, playing the second half of last season on two ailing feet, battling a bone bruise in his right foot (that healed sufficiently by season's end),and a case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot that left him hobbling around in a walking boot late in the season and into the playoffs.
"I had some games where it was better than others, but overall it was pretty painful," Stiemsma said. "[Reporters] saw me in the boot, those nights -- those nights were pretty sore. It definitely feels good to be healthy again and be able to move like I feel like I want to. Pretty pain free, just the regular bumps and bruises that come with the normal game."
Stiemsma stayed off his feet the entire summer, focusing on lifting and getting stronger this offseason while his feet healed. In Minnesota, he's facing a bit of a logjam in the frontcourt, but is staying patient. He was averaging 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in 14 appearances for the Wolves.
If his experience in Boston taught Stiemsma anything, it's that it doesn't take much to rocket up the depth chart. And he's not playing like someone who cashed in this offseason.
"I've still got that chip on my shoulder, where nothing is ever going to be given, everything’s got to be taken," Stiemsma said. "There’s always going to be opportunities, and this whole season has been like that, with the injuries we’ve had. Different guys have had to step up, and you’re given different opportunities and it’s all about how you deal with it."
The rock-star treatment continued after the game as Stiemsma got the coveted invite into the Celtics' training room after the game to catch up with some old friends. It's safe to say his number is still probably secure in Kevin Garnett's cell phone.