It’s been a tough pre-season for the Boston Celtics, but rookie Kelly Olynyk is still finding ways to impress.
After a 99-97 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, his Celtics coaches and teammates have only positive things to say about the Toronto-born rookie.
“Highly skilled,” Jeff Green said. “He’s tremendously skilled. He can shoot the ball, he’s got good range. He can run the floor and pass. For a guy just being in his first year he’s very skilled for his position.”
Olynyk’s hometown debut turned into a Raptors victory when Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Landry Fields added 14 points to lead Toronto to its third straight win.
Olynyk’s first trip home in an NBA uniform, even during pre-season, was one he had been waiting to cross off his calendar.
“It was special,” said Olynyk, who has played in the ACC before as a member of Canada’s national team. “It felt good to get out on the court I grew up watching and grew up idolizing.”
Scoring 13 points (on 6-for-7 shooting) and grabbing nine rebounds in 26 minutes of action before fouling out in the final minute of the game, Olynyk heard an ovation from the crowd upon checking into the game.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid,” Olynyk said. “Especially growing up in Toronto, being born and raised here. It’s definitely special.”
Drafted by Boston with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the 22-year-old has impressed during summer league and pre-season campaigns. Playing for a Celtics team that looks drastically different than a season ago, Olynyk has the opportunity to play a key role this season and has already won over Green and head coach Brad Stevens.
“He’s ahead of the curve for a young guy,” Stevens said.
Upon seeing Olynyk for the first time, Green immediately gave him the nickname “Sunshine.” Asked why a seven footer prompted such a nickname, Green had a simple explanation: his flowing locks.
“(The movie) Remember the Titans, the quarterback,” Green said. “Same locks. When I first saw him, that’s what I thought about.”
As for what Olynyk has been doing on the court, again Green broke it down simply.
“He does what he’s supposed to do and he does more so that’s good.”
While Olynyk pieced together another strong individual effort, it wasn’t enough to save a road-weary Celtics team that played in Brooklyn the night before. Boston put up a solid fight against the Raptors, but couldn’t keep up with Toronto’s reserves in the second half.
After holding a two-point advantage at half, Boston’s offence fell apart late in the third quarter. Unable to score over the final 4:50 of the third, the Celtics missed their final seven shots to close out the quarter and allowed Toronto to go on an 11-0 run to take a 10-point lead into the fourth.
“Defence leads to offence,” said Ross. “Especially with the second unit.”
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey relied heavily on his bench in the victory. Jonas Valanciunas was the only starter to appear in the second half or log more than 14 minutes of play as five Raptors players reached double figures in points.
“It wasn’t any disrespect to Boston, but we need to find out what our second unit can do,” said Casey.
Kyle Lowry scored 11 points while Valanciunas and Rudy Gay each added 10 points apiece for Toronto. The loss dropped the Celtics to 1-5 in the pre-season.
MarShon Brooks led Boston with 17 points, 15 coming in the fourth quarter. Jeff Green and Vitor Faverani added 13 points apiece.