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Rockets 2021 player recaps: Kelly Olynyk

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Trapped in Kamloops

Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks
The Steve Nash of Canadian Point Centers
Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Kelly parked his black 2006 Mustang two blocks from the club. The car, like himself, had seen better days. It was a present, a nice send off for a high velocity future that never arrived. The slush, the mileage, the lack of maintenance, showed, just like it did on himself.

Another night at the Blue Grotto, looking like goon. He had a loose leather jacket he wore to work, and only to work. It was like half a cow, but he’d found it in a Vancouver thrift store way back, by some miracle. Maybe it had been Big Country’s, once upon a time? Seemed fitting.

It was easy these days. He basically was a professional goon now. Some band, some young assholes looking to start something because it was pretty obvious they weren’t getting lucky. No one got that lucky. Seeing them think twice when a lanky dude, over 7ft tall in his Doc Martens, with lank hair, started wading through the crowd towards them, looking interested for the first time all night. People were really excited, with the restrictions off, and he’d actually had to “lay hands” on a couple of guys. That almost never happened before COVID.

There were girls of course, there always were some, who were curious about 6’11”. He’d learned, finally, to see that for what it was. It had stopped being flattering years ago and was now just weird, and icky, like being a circus exhibit.

Kamloops. Still in Kamloops. Sure, it was beautiful. You could ski. Well, in theory. He could do bunny slopes after the Achilles tear. Back in 2008 he’d been to the best surgeon in in Toronto. But the scholarship to Gonzaga was off, never to return. He’d made peace with maybe living in Spokane. If he could live in Kamloops, he could live in Spokane. Both places were either super dull, or hard partying, with nothing much in between.

Gonzaga was a top program, and they scouted the hell out of British Columbia. They found Kelly, still playing like his idol, Steve Nash, after growing from 6’3” to 6’11”. He could still handle, still shoot, pass, grab a board. But he couldn’t run. Couldn’t push off to jump anymore. He’d spent a week with the Alaska Aces in the Philippines before they figured it out and cut him, back in 2011. He didn’t bother staying in basketball shape anymore. It was just too embarrassing, playing a Washington General for AAU kids to practice dunking on because he couldn’t move.

He’d watched the latest season, Durant, Wall, even Nwaba, all looked like themselves. The Achilles injury wasn’t a death sentence anymore. There was no going back for him, though.

Another night at the club. Another day in Kamloops.

Reality stuttered, froze, shifted.

Kelly Olynyk was traded from the Miami Heat to the rebuilding Houston Rockets in 2021.

The trade to a team that had a bigger role for Olynyk to play was eye opening. The former point guard skills he’d shown in high school, before growing, like Anthony Davis, to 6’11”, were still in evidence. His handle wasn’t tight enough to be a point guard all the time, but as a high post initiator, and secondary ballhandler and creator, Olynyk was a breath of fresh air in a stale, depressing, morose Rockets season of rebuilding.

Olynyk averaged 19pts, 8.6 rbs, 4.1 ast, and 1.4 stls in 31 minutes per game for the Rockets. He shot 55% overall and 39% on three pointers. In a “point center” to point guard statistical comparison, Olynyk’s output was arguably better than John Wall’s, who averaged one more point, three more assists, but six fewer rebounds, with worse shooting and a higher turnover rate. I’d happily take Olynyk as the Rockets stand-in PG if Wall could be moved along somehow, someway.

The Rockets would likely choose to keep Olynyk, an unrestricted free agent this summer all things being equal. He was the only real benefit that came of disposing of the hurt and irritating Victor Oladipo, who did the Rockets a huge favor by not signing a deal with them. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how the 30-year-old Olynyk and the rebuilding Rockets’ time scale meshes.

When thinking about teams where Kelly would thrive, one jumps to mind, after watching these playoffs. Dallas. Olynyk showed he is what Porzingis is supposed to be for Dallas. Swap his Rockets production for Porzingis. Exchange Olynyk’s scrappy toughness for the uninterested Latvian’s, and Dallas is probably on to the second round.

Another great fit would be Charlotte. They could use his center skills, his play making and shooting.

This would be a longer write up, and not as odd, if I though there was a real chance Kelly Olynyk was a Rocket next season.

Best of luck to Kelly. He was a bright spot in a dark year, and I’m glad he’s not still in Kamloops.

He’s probably not staying in Houston, but I enjoyed his brief stay.

Poll

Which team for the point center Olynyk?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Houston
    (115 votes)
  • 24%
    Dallas
    (57 votes)
  • 5%
    New York
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    Back to Boston
    (22 votes)
  • 5%
    Charlotte
    (12 votes)
  • 6%
    Other
    (14 votes)
233 votes total Vote Now