While you would never want to put this type of pressure on a kid that is just getting his feet wet in the NBA, it goes without saying that Gonzaga could really, really, really use a 'splash' in the NBA. While Jeremy Pargo, Austin Daye, Ronny Turiaf, and Robert Sacre all got some run in the league last year, none are what you would call household names. For Kelly Olynyk, the situation couldn't be better. He is with one of the most storied franchises in all of sports that just signed a very exciting new coach and that team happens to be in rebuild mode meaning that he has time to get acquainted with the NBA.
That said, if we use Kelly's first three games in a Boston uniform as any indicator, he might not need a whole lot of time. Yeah, yeah..I know: "It's just summer league, Zach, most of these guys will be overseas soon". While this is partially true, I would say that these are still outstanding players he is going against that are all playing for their livelihood. There will be a major talent increase when the true NBA season begins, but so far so good.
In his most recent game on Tuesday morning, he scored 21 points and pulled down 9 boards. The game before that against Detroit he had 13 and 6. In his debut for the Celtics, he scored 25 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. I particularly enjoyed this brief excerpt from SB Nation's great CelticsBlog:
Olynyk has continued to show that he has all the tools to be a very good scorer in the NBA. Here's a short list of some of his remarkable plays from today: dribbled the ball coast-to-coast for a layup, a sexy one-legged step-back jumper from 15-feet, hard dribble on the post to a hook shot in the paint, another up-and-under move on the post, and a pump fake from behind the arc for a one-dribble pull-up jumper from 18-feet. All right, maybe that wasn't such a short list. To put it simply: Olynyk was a baller today. ESPN tweeted that Courtney Lee said while sitting courtside, "Oh man, big boy (Olynyk) can stroke it." Olynyk impresses every Celtics fan and apparently the Celtics players are too.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of summer league thus far has been hearing everyone's reaction to Kelly's wide array of offensive moves. There literally isn't a thing he can't do offensively. He is outstanding with this back to the basket, he can take slower guys on the bounce, and he can step out. Oh, and he doesn't mind scrapping a bit as well. He is going to struggle through the course of the season against athletic big men, particularly if he has to step out and guard but he is remarkably smart and has made a lot of great defensive plays so far simply by being in the right spot.
With Boston, he will have the chance to start right away and become the face of a great franchise. Does that count as a 'splash'?
Other Zags In Action
-- So far, Micah Downs has been the only other Bulldog to hit the court in summer league. He actually took on Kelly on Tuesday as he is suiting up for the Pacers. If you remember, Micah was one of the final cuts last year for the Celtics so expectations are somewhat high for him. He showed great promise on Monday as he came off the bench to score 14 points in 14 minutes. He was 4-5 from deep which is exactly what Micah needs to do to hang on in the league.
Micah has one more shot with the Pacers in the Orlando Summer League. Hopefully he can hit some shots and snag a training camp invite. I continue to think that he could be an outstanding role player in the NBA because he can defend so well but he needs to find consistency as a scorer.
Micah's next game: Thursday, July 11th at 8 AM pacific
-- There will be a lot of Spokane eyes tuned to the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team. Two Zags will hit the court for another team that is in semi-rebuild mode. Having just lost Dwight Howard and with Kobe Bryant injured, there is room on the Lakers roster to make an impact. Second year player Robert Sacre and rookie free agent Elias Harris will have that chance. For Rob Sacre, he was a great locker room guy for the Lakers last year but didn't exactly knock em dead on the court. Here is a brief snippet from SB Nation's 'Silver Screen And Roll':
In other words, Sacre needs to prove that he won't kill the team on either end and has at least one useful skill to contribute whenever he's on the floor. If it turns out that he can, for instance, hit midrange shots and take charges, that's a guy who can be a bit guy in a rotation. Although we all enjoy Sacre for his world-class cheerleader skills, one would think that he would prefer to be a more meaningful factor in the team's success.
For Elias Harris, he just needs to prove that he can do a couple things: hit jump shots with consistency and be able to defend well on the perimeter. I have a hard time believing that some NBA team couldn't use Harris' game and I would be surprised to see him not at least get a hard look during training camp.
Robert & Elias' next game: Friday, July 12th at 5 PM pacific
-- A former Zag that received a late invite to summer league is Josh Heytvelt with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Josh has had a long career overseas since graduating from Gonzaga in 2009 but hasn't really had a serious look at the NBA. We all know what kind of player Josh was at Gonzaga when healthy and focused and that player could absolutely make it in the NBA. At this point, however, I think it is a major longshot.
Josh's next game: Friday, July 12th at 5 PM pacific