As the Timberwolves have plummeted to the bottom of the Western Conference, with nothing but small victories to celebrate along the way, one player has gained a significant measure of national attention. He has graced the highlights of Sportscenter, agitated opponents, and even chipped in an important play or two. That man? Greg "the Steamer" Stiemsma.
Start with the nickname, which has not necessarily caught on outside of Minnesota just yet. The Steamer. One part intimidating, one part giggle-worthy if you are of a certain mindset. Should they spell it "The Stiemer?" No, they should not. Stick with "the Steamer." About the time he makes a couple more appearances on ESPN, the nickname is certain to go viral.
Stiemsa first generated buzz by stirring up some scuffles with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Steamer is one among many to find himself in an altercation with Matt Barnes, but his stands out from the rest. The reason? That red blotch that lingered on Stiemsma's neck for seemingly the entire game. With his blonde hair and blue eyes, the Steamer wore that red blotch, with the rosy cheeks to match, as a badge of honor. The Timberwolves might find themselves lacking in many departments, but toughness will not be one of them. Not if Greg "the Steamer" Stiemsma has anything to say about it they won't.
Finally there was the block he made on rookie sensation Damien Lillard in the team's loss to the Portland Blazers Monday night. Running down an opponent on the breakaway is a feat usually reserved for LeBron James or Kevin Durant. On this night Stiemsma made his case to be named in that group. Athleticism? Check. Hustle? Check. A clean block? Check. Stuck the landing? Nobody's perfect.
Other than an appearance in the Top 10 highlights, this last moment embodies what Stiemsma needs to bring each night in his sparse playing time. Entering the season it looked like the Timberwolves would make their name with team defense. The injuries that have sabotaged the season are apparent in their suddenly struggling defense. Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio struggle to keep opposing guards out of the paint and the team lacks the size to guard opposing big men. Stiemsma's block percentage (7.1%) ranks 5th in the NBA. With more minutes must come more of a defensive impact.