Boston Celtics rookie big man Kelly Olynyk has been having a lot of fun since he was drafted 13th overall in June. From a great run in Summer League to a strong preseason in October, Olynyk, with his long hair flying behind him as he races up and down the court like an athletic wing, looks like the cat that has just swallowed the canary. His joy playing basketball with an NBA team’s name on the front of his jersey has been obvious.
“Of course I am having fun,” Olynyk said. “Every time I get to play the game of basketball it is a blessing, especially at this level. It is something I love to do. It is my passion, my joy. To go there and play every day is pretty special.”
Boston moved up in the draft to get Olynyk, trading the 16th pick and two future second round picks to Dallas in order to land him. With the Celtics revamping their roster in the off season and targeting Olynyk to be a part of their future, the pressure might be on the 22-year-old to perform right away, but that’s not the way Olynyk sees it.
“They just want me to go out there and play hard, play as well as I can and be a part of a team,” Olynyk said. “You are not by yourself out there; you don’t have to try to do anything on your own. You have to be part of a whole, part of a group.
“You just want to go out there and work as hard as you can. There is a lot of learning process especially in the first year transitioning into the league. You just want to get better every day. Not only myself, but get better as a team.”
The Celtics recognize Olynyk is a rookie with a lot to learn and Olynyk credits the team’s All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo with helping him adjust to the league.
“There are a lot of differences (from college),” Olynyk said. “The rules are different, the speed, the athleticism, the skill level is at another level as well. There are a lot of things to adapt to, grow into and learn.
“(Rajon Rondo) has been really good. He knows the game. He has been around it. Especially as a point guard, he sees all aspects of the game offensively, defensively and leadership wise. He has helped a lot of guys on our team so far. He has a wealth of knowledge and to have that at your fingertips is pretty special. (I am) definitely looking forward to playing with him when he gets back because he is a special player.”
He must be learning pretty fast as the NBA’s poll of 30 general managers considers Olynyk to be the steal of the draft and who could blame them? The big man averaged 9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in preseason while showing off some surprising passing skills and long range potential with his jump shot. Sure Olynyk made lots of rookie-type mistakes, but his upside was obvious.
Olynyk was born in Canada and played his high school basketball there. His family has strong connections to Canada Basketball. His father coached Canada’s junior men’s national team for many years and his mother was a women’s basketball referee and worked for the Toronto Raptors. He is just one of several young Canadians who has been drafted into the NBA recently and he sees a crowd of other younger Canadians coming up behind him.
“It’s awesome to be part of this,” Olynyk said. “Growing up with a lot of guys (like) Cory (Joseph), Tristan (Thompson) and all those guys who are now in the league – playing at the highest level they can. It is really cool to be a part of that and see it develop. Now there are a lot of kids following in our footsteps which is really cool as well.”
This 7’ Canadian kid went from almost unknown to being recognized as one of the most skilled big men in college basketball, drafted as a lottery pick by the Celtics and finally the steal of the NBA draft over the past year. It’s been some ride. Of course Olynyk is having fun.
Olynyk will play his first ever regular season NBA game at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday October 30.