Impressive Olynyk kicks off NBA career in home country

Impressive Olynyk kicks off NBA career in home country
October 29, 2013, 11:00 pm
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TORONTO — It's a rare treat for Canadian players in the NBA to get a chance to play in their country, so you can count Kelly Olynyk among the more fortunate.

Wednesday night's season opener at Toronto will be Olynyk's third trip to Canada as a professional basketball player.

Boston played at Toronto on Oct. 16 and against Minnesota in Montreal on Oct. 20.

The basketball gods have certainly looked favorably upon Olynyk when it comes to scheduling, huh?

"I would say all these (NBA) guys have the basketball gods in their corner because they have ... the whole year, in their country," quipped Olynyk. "It's kind of ... you guys have your perceptions a little skewed."

What is clear now is that Olynyk will see a decent amount of playing time this season.

Acquired by the Celtics on draft night with the Dallas Mavericks' No. 13 pick, the 7-foot rookie has been among the better frontcourt players for the Celtics in the preseason.

Appearing in all eight preseason games, Olynyk averaged nine points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting an impressive 52.5 percent from the field.

Now preseason numbers can be a bit deceiving when you consider teams aren't playing their best players extended minutes and the amount of effort put forth by players well, it leaves a little - OK, a lot - to be desired at times.

But with Olynyk, it is all about the skillset that includes a face-to-the-basket game that extends all the way out to the 3-point line, combined with low-post skills that are in some ways reminiscent to Celtics great Kevin McHale.

Of course Olynyk isn't on that level quite yet.

But he's making the kind of early strides that gives the Celtics brass hope that this rebuilding process they are in the early stages of, won't last as long as many anticipate.

"Kelly's doing great," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "Like any other rookie, there's a lot to work on. But he's not a rookie in his mind as far as he really thinks the game. The game comes easy to him. He's getting better every day. He has a great attitude, a great work ethic. He's got all those intangibles. I think he's playing really well for us."

Part of Olynyk's development will be gaining confidence in his ability to score.

Stevens has made no secret about wanting the 22-year-old rookie to look for his shot more often, something Olynyk has heard from a couple teammates as well.

"That's positive I guess," Olynyk told "They have confidence in you as a player, a decision-maker on the floor. They believe in you. There's not a lot that's negative from a comment like that other than you're not shooting it enough."

A former point guard in high school (a seven-inch growth spurt in high school changed that), Olynyk's instinct more often than not is to find a teammate rather than fire away shot after shot.

But he's starting to understand the need to be well-versed in both if he and the Celtics are to have the kind of success each is searching for.

"It's a line you have to balance," Olynyk said. "Creating shots for your team and keeping them involved. It's kind of from a point guard perspective I guess. You want to keep everyone involved and get good shots for everyone."

Which would be a treat for both the Celtics and his many supporters who will be at Wednesday's game.

Having already played in front of family and friends twice will take some of the jitters away that one of his teammates said were present the last time the Celtics were in Toronto.

"I could tell that he was nervous," said Boston forward Jeff Green. "You want to perform well and you're at a level now where you worked so hard to (get to), and now your family can watch you play. You just want to be perfect. But I think he'll be fine."