Last tuneup hits close to home for Timberwolves' Stiemsma

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2012 - 11:39 AM
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Greg Stiemsma

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The Timberwolves finish their seven-game preseason schedule Friday night with a journey to backup center Greg Stiemsma's motherland, and a game against Milwaukee in Green Bay, Wis.

"Actually, Green Bay isn't my neck of the woods," said Stiemsma, who will have a few family members and friends make the three-hour drive from his hometown of Randolph, Wis. "But it'll be nice to go back to Wisconsin."

Wisconsin born, raised and college-educated at the University of Wisconsin, Stiemsma has played himself back into shape during this preseason from a foot injury with performances that suggest he could be a change-of-pace complement to starting center Nikola Pekovic.

He'll never, ever be the physical force Pekovic is.

That much was evident last week when Pekovic missed a game at Chicago because of a hand injury and Stiemsma started in his place, playing 26 minutes on a night when Bulls big men Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson bullied their way around the basket.

Stiemsma was asked if he'll ever be as strong as Pekovic, who came back from summer lean as can be, and still seems stronger than ever.

"I'm trying to catch up to him, but he's on a pretty high level," Stiemsma said. "He's just a big, physical guy who's talented enough to use that size, too. Obviously, Pek is a big dude and that's a big hole to fill when he's not out there."

But Stiemsma, in at least a couple of respects, is something that Pekovic is not: At a listed 6-11, he's a touch taller than Pekovic, with a wingspan that appears to be a bit longer as well.

Pekovic is a lot of things, but a natural shot blocker he is not.

And that's one thing Stiemsma has proven he can do in a brief NBA career that started with 55 games played for Boston last season. He he signed a two-year contract -- with only one seqason guaranteed -- with the Wolves last summer.

Last season, he was second in the league only to Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka in blocked shots per minute played.

Stiemsma blocked 1.55 shots while playing 13.9 minutes a game, but extrapolate those numbers out and he averaged 5.33 blocks per 48 minutes played, behind only Ibaka's 6.46 per 48 minutes played.

"He does affect shots around the basket," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said when asked about Stiemsma's natural shot-blocking abilities. "He's got a good instinct for it."

Stiemsma attributes that ability to one constant throughout his life: He always was the tallest kid in his class growing up.

"I've always been taller, but for a lot of years a lot of guys were a lot faster than me, too," he said. "So I had to use my height, use my size to combat other things I wasn't quite good at. It just kind of always came natural to me."

Stiemsma provides one other weapon that Pekovic hasn't yet displayed: The guy's got a 15-foot jump shot.

"It's pretty rare for a big who can shoot like that," teammate Andrei Kirilenko said.

Etc.

• Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor's four-year reign as the NBA's Board of Governors chairman is coming to an end. The league announced Friday that San Antonio owner Peter Holt will replace him. NBA Commissioner David Stern, who announced he will retire in February 2014, praised Taylor's service, saying, "His wisdom and counsel over the past four years have been invaluable."

• The Wolves will have a week after Friday's preseason finale to prepare for their Nov. 2 season opener against Sacramento. Adelman said he expects to play Kirilenko some at power forward against the Bucks, just in case he'll have to play there in the regular season with Kevin Love out. He has split time at that position between Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham the past two games.

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