We’re kicking off our offseason coverage here at A Wolf Among Wolves with a comprehensive roster review of the team from this past season, looking at how each player’s 2012-13 went and what we see for them going forward. One player a day for the next couple weeks, starting with the bench and rolling up to the starters.
That’s what you are asking shot blockers to accept. They have to be able to accept being embarrassed. If they can’t accept it, they’ll be timid and unable to do their jobs. Their jobs are to protect the rim and risk becoming a YouTube sensation in a less than ideal manner. Get dunked on and you’re immortalized forever. Block the dunk and you’ll be pretty cool for probably a night. There isn’t much reward outside of being somebody who deters people from even driving into the lane. People don’t try to dunk on Dwight Howard anymore. In a couple years, people won’t try to dunk on Larry Sanders anymore.
The appeal of the attempt to dunk on the great shot blockers doesn’t outweigh the consistent threat of rejection. For role players who aren’t going to be earning eight-figure per season contracts because of their ability to put up a velvet rope at the rim and tell you that you’re not on the list, there isn’t much glory in their jobs. People rarely remember their blocks and often only remember the time they got dunked on. And that’s what we seem to have with Greg Stiemsma as the backup center for the Wolves. There isn’t any glory with what he does; there’s only looking past him as you scan the room to see if there is anybody else you should be talking to.
I like what Greg Stiemsma brings to the team, and I know that’s kind of boring. Well, that fits because I’m a pretty boring person. I like that Stiemer shows up to work, knowing he has a high probability of getting challenged at the rim, and is willing to accept this existence. I like that Stiemsma is the enforcer on this team and isn’t afraid to send a message if he feels it needs being sent. He’s not a dirty player; he’s just a good teammate. It’s why he celebrates 3-pointers (the few that went in) with the first down/3-pointer hand gesture/leg kick. And he got other guys on the team to do it because it’s a fun thing for teammates to do.
For some reason, perhaps out of desperation for something fun to root for in a season of injuries and disappointments, fans wanted Greg Stiemsma off the court and Chris Johnson on it. It was an assumption that big men can be interchangeable for each other, simply because positional values are often similar throughout the structure of a roster. Chris Johnson is a center; Greg Stiemsma is a center. But they’re completely different players.
Chris Johnson will swat your floater out of the air; Greg Stiemsma will take away your shot at the rim. CJ will throw it down on you in a spectacular fashion; Stiemer will space the floor and understand the alleyways he can traverse in the halfcourt a lot better. I think Stiemsma is a much better backup than Johnson because he is. But the potential of Johnson giving us a cool highlight to help apply aloe to the burn that was the injury-riddled season was something a lot of fans would have rather seen out there.
I can’t fault them for that; I just disagree. The Wolves had a legit enforcer available to them. Matt Barnes pretended he wanted to fight our guy. Jarrett Jack pretended he wanted to fight our guy. Each time, he took the confrontation, stood his ground, and showed the Wolves weren’t going to be pushed around while he was on the court. It didn’t ultimately matter, but I like the idea of someone putting his chin out there in a fight or at the rim and daring the foe to attack it.
Stiemsma isn’t someone I want playing more than 12 minutes per night, and I think in a “not so injured” season we’d see those kind of minutes from him. We wouldn’t see him with such a big role that he played very inconsistent in. But we’d see a guy that everybody on the team seems to love and a guy that gives the Wolves a necessary presence on the court when he’s asked to be out there.
Going into this past season, I wasn’t a Stiemsma fan at all and thought it might have been wasted money by the Timberwolves. After a month, I was willing to reconsider. After two months, I was glad I was willing to change my viewpoint on him and not be stubborn about it (Nate Robinson will get no such accordance from me in his career if that ever happens). I like Greg Stiemsma on this team a lot. And I don’t mind that he’s not afraid to get embarrassed out there.