A couple times in every game, Greg Stiemsma will commit a foul and look sheepishly toward the Celtics bench. Doc Rivers will only stare back, not thrilled that his rookie big man fouled a jump shooter with one second left on the shot clock, but not exactly upset, either.
It took Stiemsma more than three years to reach the NBA after college, yet at no time did he forget his skill set or try to alter his game. He was a shot-blocker who fouled a bit too often, and although Rivers would love for Stiemsma to cut down on the latter, the coach is both optimistic and realistic.
"He is who he is," Rivers said with a shrug. "The great thing about Greg, he's 20-whatever  when he comes into the league, he already knows who he is. He's not trying to be anything else but who he is, so he fits us perfectly."
A part of Stiemsma is a poor man's Kevin Garnett, in that both have to be talked into shooting and each of them would dedicate 110 percent of his energy to the defensive end if he could. Like Garnett, when Stiemsma is asked to comment on the game, he always starts by talking about defense.
Stiemsma has also started to echo Garnett of late with his use of pronouns. When players are still establishing themselves, they speak about "I": "I am still learning how I fit in here," for example. As they become more comfortable with their role on the team, they begin to use "we."
"We've had those kinds of moments where we really turn it on," Stiemsma said after a defense-fueled win over the Magic. "Our defense really picks up. We've just got to continue to grind that out for more of the game. When we need to take control, we usually do. We've just got to work maybe on keeping that tempo higher the whole game."
In that very game, despite blocking another bushel of shots and making the right defensive rotations on most possessions, Stiemsma was whistled for a foul as Orlando frantically tried to get off a shot before the 24-second clock expired.
Stiemsma looked at the referee, then looked toward the bench, where Rivers stood with his arms crossed.
"Listen, he knows it," Rivers said later. "I mean, it's not gonna change."
Stiemsma is not quite as resigned to his fate as Rivers is, but he is not about to let the fouls deter him from chasing every shot in sight. That facet of Stiemsma's game, at least, the Celtics hope never changes.
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