The group of fans who wore matching T-shirts to Celtics games in support of 26-year-old rookie center Greg Stiemsma may have a long commute next season, when Stiemsma is expected to suit up for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Wolves, whose pursuit of swingman Nicolas Batum has drawn more attention this offseason, have zeroed in on Stiemsma for a backup role. The Wolves reportedly are confident they can structure their offer to the restricted free agent in such a way that the Celtics, who will be over the salary cap once the signings of Jeff Green and Jason Terry are official, will not be able to match.
This was a problem the Celtics figured to face if Stiemsma performed as ably as he did last season, so it is a good problem for them to have. The interest in Stiemsma would not exist if he had not emerged as the competent backup center the team sorely needed last season, and the Celtics would not have made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals if that emergence had not occurred. There is a reason Stiemsma was under some demand while Sean Williams, who seldom left the bench after signing with Boston on April 19, remains with the Celtics' summer league squad.
Much like Jeremy Lin, Stiemsma seized what may have been his last opportunity to prove himself in the NBA and ran with it. The 7-foot Wisconsinite did not touch off any "Stiemsmadness" beyond Causeway Street, but he demonstrated rare shot-blocking instincts that were bound to be in demand. Other teams simply needed to become aware of them.
Unlike James Dolan, who appears to harbor a grudge against Lin for capitalizing on his emergence, Celtics fans will be hard-pressed to hold this against Stiemsma. His journey to the NBA went through the D-League, South Korea and Turkey, and he even appeared to be a candidate to be released after the Celtics' abbreviated training camp prior to the 2011-12 season.
Most of the Stiemsma Crew hopefully recognizes that Stiemsma's dream was never to have a few enthusiastic dudes sporting his name on T-shirts, but to play basketball for a living and make a lot of money doing it.
Photo via Twitter/@GregStiemsma