MIAMI — Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk have met before.
In a game between the Heat and Celtics on March 9, 2015, Whiteside blindsided Olynyk with an elbow to the back of his neck and knocked him down to the court. Whiteside picked up a flagrant-2 foul and an automatic ejection for the play, and was slapped with a one-game suspension the next day.
Now, Olynyk and Whiteside are teammates. Olynyk signed with the Heat on a four-year, $50 million free-agent deal with Miami on Friday after spending the past four seasons in Boston.
Olynyk doesn’t hold a grudge against his new teammate for that play. Whiteside apologized to him following that 2015 game and they’ve been “close” ever since.
“[Whiteside] apologized right after the game,” Olynyk said when asked about the incident during a Friday night conference call with South Florida media. “That was a few years ago. I think before he signed his big deal. I just told him, he’s a great player and he’s got superb upside and talent, don’t let emotions or a temper or whatever it is, don’t let that hold you back and prevent you from being great. He has a great opportunity. I just wanted to see him succeed and be great. He did. Ever since then we’ve been close. He texted me after I signed my deal and said welcome to Miami and I can’t wait to be out here with you. He’s been great. You can see he’s really truly an unbelievable character.”
This was all part of the lesson Whiteside learned early in his Heat career. Just a week before his run-in with Olynyk, Whiteside was ejected for his role in a scuffle with then-Suns center Alex Len.
Since those two ejections during the 2014-15 season, Whiteside has been ejected just once over the past two seasons.
“I feel terrible about it. I feel like I let my team down,” Whiteside said after the Olynyk incident. “It can’t happen again. I just want to apologize to everybody.”
Good thing for all parties involves, Olynyk accepted Whiteside’s apology. Less than three years later, Whiteside and Olynyk are teammates who are expected to log some minutes together in Miami’s frontcourt.
“It’s going to be awesome to play beside him and not have to go up against him every night,” Olynyk said. “To be able to play beside him and kind of learn from him. Going against him every day in practice is going to make it easier to get your shot up against other people.”