LAS VEGAS — The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed restricted free agent Greg Stiemsma to an offer sheet Saturday to an amount the Celtics will be unable to match.
The offer is a multiyear deal believed to be near $3 million per season, meaning the Celtics would have to create that much salary cap space to match the offer. The Celtics are knocking on the door of the $74.3 million cap limit and only have the teams biannual exception — beginning at $1.95 million — to offer.
The Celtics were reluctant to offer Stiemsma, who briefly became a league sensation after joining the team as a training camp invite, that valuable exception and team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday that Stiemsma was “a free agent still exploring his options. We’re just waiting to see what happens.”
With the re-signing of Chris Wilcox at the league minimum, the Celtics felt like they were solid at backup center and want to save their biannual exception for perhaps one of the remaining free agents whose market value may drop over the next few weeks.
Stiemsma was a defensive sensation when he first began getting minutes in the early season, even making a start against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 2 where he scored 13 points with 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. The emergence of Wilcox cost Stiemsma playing time but he return when Wilcox was declared out for the season with an enlarged aorta and Jermaine O’Neal needed wrist surgery.
But Stiemsma struggled at times guarding the pick-and-roll and the Celtics were completely reliant on he and Ryan Hollins as backups during their critical playoff run. Hollins outplayed Stiemsma in throughout the playoffs and got key minutes in the series against the Miami Heat.
The Timberwolves targeted Stiemsma since free agency began and the University of Wisconsin alumni had nearly 100 family and friends when the Celtics played the Timberwolves in March.