Stiemsma received one second-team vote among the 30 head coaches who cast ballots for the award. A single vote was nothing for the Celtics center to write home to Wisconsin about, but it was the latest subtle sign that the 26-year-old's long journey to the NBA was worth it.
"I'm usually not big on individual accomplishments and stuff, but to have somebody recognize the work I put in to get here, it felt good," Stiemsma said prior to Wednesday morning's shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center. "Even though it was just one, looking at last year, I wasn't in [any season] right now. I was home from overseas and not really thinking about the game, so it's definitely been a heck of a ride."
Before any skeptics scoff that Celtics coach Doc Rivers cast a pity vote for his backup center, they should know that coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players. The ballots are secret, but it may be safe to assume the vote for Stiemsma came courtesy of Charlotte coach Paul Silas or New Orleans coach Monty Williams, whose teams absorbed Stiemsma's two six-block performances this season. Stiemsma also posted five blocks each against the Bucks and Pacers.
Stiemsma's path to the NBA went through Madison, Wisc., where he played four years for the Badgers before three years playing in Turkey, South Korea and the NBDL. When he finally caught on with an NBA team, he was cursed with a coach who went to a rival in-state college. Rivers, a Marquette alum, did not hold Stiemsma's academic history against him — at least, not very much.
"It has to say a lot about a guy," Rivers said. "He hung in there and he stayed in there. He believed at some point that he was an NBA player, long before he got to us. I always kid him, he probably had to play, going to Wisconsin. If he'd gone to Marquette he probably could have gone out and gotten a job somewhere. Being a Wisconsin grad, he probably had to stick to basketball."
Stiemsma stuck to it, and at least one opposing coach recognized that.
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