Originally posted on Celtics Town  |  Last updated 6/12/12

Greg Stiemsma began his season with a halfway decent chance of making the Boston Celtics roster and concluded it as an important rotation piece, albeit one whose injury battles hindered his postseason production. He had spent much of the past month or more trying to hide a walking boot from reporters. But after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals he slipped it on without caring who saw, finally able to stop projecting health when his body felt anything but.

Stiemsma isn’t sure where he’ll land as a restricted free agent.

“I have to do what’s best financially for me and my family,” he told the Boston Herald, though he also added, “To come back to play for Doc (Rivers), hopefully we can make that work out. Boston is definitely my No. 1 choice.”

The 26-year old loved and appreciated his time in Boston. He started the year intimidated by Kevin Garnett, for two reasons: 1) Which NBA newbie who played last year in Turkey and never averaged as many as 4 points per game in college wouldn’t be? And 2) His level of respect for Garnett reached from the ground to the sky. That respect level, initially built from afar, only grew with Garnett as his teammate. (Boston Herald)

“I was a little bit intimidated when I first came in,” Stiemsma said. “I didn’t think the respect level could be any higher, but the more and more I played with him, the more and more I saw how hard he worked, how serious he takes things, and my respect level just kept going through the roof and he just kept pulling me closer. I’m definitely very appreciative of him and everything he’s done for me.”

“Just keep working — keep working on my body, keep working on my game,” Stiemsma said of his offseason plans. “I couldn’t have had better leaders to see what it takes to get to the highest level.”

It’s hard to tell exactly how good Stiemsma is because his postseason encouraged doubts. He became a valuable part of the rotation during the latter stages of the regular season, when his defense killed and his offense contained a surprisingly effective midrange jumper. In the playoffs he was disappointing — a step slow on rotations, unable to reach the level of physicality required in postseason play. We don’t know exactly how much his injuries (mostly plantar fasciitis) contributed to his decreased playoff production on both ends of the court. But we’ve seen Stiemsma at his shot-blocking, mid-range shooting best and we’ve seen him on days when Ryan Hollins was legitimately a better option.

We hope Stiemsma can improve his playoff performance once his feet heal. But even if his postseason was more telling than we wish, we’ve at least learned this: Greg Stiemsma belongs in the NBA. Seven months ago, I’m not even sure he believed that to be true.

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