Jerry Zgoda's Sunday Insider: Stiemsma learned from two former Wolves

  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 8:37 PM

Associations with former Wolves Al Jefferson and Kevin Garnett helped Greg Stiemsma find the way to success.

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Greg Stiemsma played tough defense on the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma's circuitous route to the NBA took him to Turkey and Sioux Falls, Georgia (the country, not the state) and South Korea, where, as it already has been documented in fish wrap, he was exposed to the delights of live octopus soup.

It also acquainted him with two former Timberwolves stars, whom he credits with getting him to where he is today.

From Al Jefferson, he learned attention to detail and the work habits required of a professional.

From Kevin Garnett, he gained the self- respect and confidence he needed to know he belongs in the NBA.

"I learned so much from both those guys," he said.

The Wolves signed Stiemsma out of the D League before the final day of the 2009-10 season so he could spend the summer working out with Jefferson, who was still recovering from knee surgery the year before. The Wolves also signed him in case they needed his non-guaranteed contract to make a big summertime trade work.

He never played a game and was waived in September 2010, after Jefferson was traded to Utah in July and before training camp even began.

But for at least six weeks, the two trained together at Target Center and in Boston as well.

"I was kind of his practice dummy," Stiemsma said.

And low-post pupil, too.

He watched and learned, and early on he fell for Jefferson's famed pump fake during one-on-one workouts.

"I don't know if I ever blocked his right-hand jump hooks, but I could usually get the left," Stiemsma said. "It was a pretty good battle for me and him. We got after it. When a guy like Al Jefferson still is in here working hard on his post moves -- getting after it in the weight room in the summertime -- you've got to know this is your job and you've got to do all those little things that some other guys aren't doing just to be at your highest level."

Stiemsma went to camp with Cleveland that fall but didn't make the final cut. So he ended up back in Turkey for another season in 2010-11 and then briefly landed back in the D League with Sioux Falls during last year's NBA labor lockout. Boston signed him a week before the season opener.

Stiemer, meet K.G.

"I can't say enough good things about my experience there with [Garnett], all the things he taught me, more or less taking me under his wing," Stiemsma said.

"And it wasn't always just pulling me aside and telling me a story. He led by example, and to get to any kind of level of his intensity and his focus and dedication to the game, there's nowhere to go but success."

Not everybody gets on Garnett's good side, but Stiemsma believes he was one of the chosen.

"I don't know, maybe I was just one of the lucky ones," he said. "I just went in there and played my style. I played hard. I didn't come in overconfident or cocky or felt like I was owed anything. I think he respected I did the little things -- diving on the floor, blocking shots -- it took to win games."

Garnett said he removed veteran teammate Ray Allen from his cell-phone directory when Allen chose to sign with Miami last summer.

Is Stiemsma still in there after signing with the Wolves?

"I hope so, although I think he changes his numbers as much as anybody," Steimsma said. "I don't know if many guys can keep up with his current number, but I'm hoping I stayed in the phone book."

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