(Photo courtesy of Boston Herald- Staff photo by John Wilcox.)
ORLANDO- Late in the first quarter,Kelly Olynyk caught the ball at the top of the key with some airspace, but instead of taking the open 3-point shot, he hesitated, put the ball on the floor and was whistled for a travel.
“If you’re open, shoot the ball,” shouted Celtics summer league coach Jay Larranaga.
Olynyk scored a game-high 25 points for the Boston Celtics summer league team but, following the game, teammates and coaches alike called for the 7-footer to be more aggressive offensively.
“He’s a guy that redshirted last year by choice,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters at the Amway Center in Orlando Sunday. “And then, all of the sudden, on a team with really good basketball players, he kind of rose to the top and became the best one. Sometime that adds to…you’re willing to be passive towards others.
“I don’t want him to be reluctant at all shooting the basketball.”
Unable to play while he continues to rehabilitate from back surgery, Jared Sullinger played the role of mentor/coach on the Celtics bench. He was vocal both with the players on the sidelines, and with the coaching staff in the huddle.
Following the game, Sullinger said he’s trying to convince Olynyk to be more aggressive, especially during the Orlando Pro Summer League.
“Every time he touches (the ball), he should look to score,” Sullinger said. “When he’s got open shots, he’s got to shoot them. Sometimes, he’s going to have to shoot contested shots.
“I just think he needs to be more aggressive, more assertive, and let these guys know he came to play. We really want him to the be the focal point of the summer league team.”
Despite hitting seven of his first eight shots, Olynyk only attempted four shots in the second half. There were multiple open three-pointers that Olynyk passed up to either drive, or swing the ball around the perimeter.
This is not to say Olynyk was tentative; he was far and away the best player on the floor Sunday, and that included the No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo. Olynyk displayed the superior footwork and ball-handling that made him a lottery pick on many occasions.
Sullinger, Stevens, and Larranaga all praised Olynyk’s skill-level and basketball IQ, which is the biggest reason they want him to be more assertive.
“He needs to know we have the utmost confidence in whatever decision he makes,” Larranaga said, “because he’s such a smart basketball player.”
He posted up, he beat defenders off the dribble, and was unafraid to throw his body around in the paint, picking up 6 fouls (in the summer league, a player doesn’t foul out until he has 10 fouls) and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. Still, Olynyk did not seem completely comfortable, or instinctive, when catching from behind the NBA three-point line. It’s three feet further back than the men’s collegiate line and, though Olynyk’s shooting range certainly extends beyond the line, it’s still an adjustment.
“It’s something that I’m trying to focus on,” Olynyk said. ‘I’m by no means where I need to be; I still need to improve, so I’m just going to keep working on (my 3-point shooting).
“It’s a ‘just shoot the ball when you’re open’ kind of thing. I think I’m kind of an unselfish player at times-sometimes to a fault. I’ve got to work on that.”