Kelly Olynyk is getting to know Hassan Whiteside off the court, excited to team up with him on the court

MIAMI — Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk’s relationship began with a flagrant-2 foul.

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.

“[Whiteside] apologized right after the game,” Olynyk said after signing a four-year, $50 million free-agent contract with the Heat in July. “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.”

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) looks for an opening past Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk (41) and guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in Miami. The Celtics defeated the Heat 112-104. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

That relationship has only grown stronger since Olynyk and Whiteside became teammates. Olynyk began working out with his new Heat teammates in Miami this week and had dinner at Whiteside’s house on Monday night.

“He’s a great guy, a great character,” Olynyk said of Whiteside on Wednesday at the Heat’s summer youth basketball camp at Miami-Dade College in Kendall. “He’s a super nice guy. But he’s a beast. I’m really excited to play with him and to be able to play with a guy his size and with his abilities on the floor defensively and offensively, on the glass. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. Meeting him and getting to know him, he’s awesome to be around. I’m really looking forward to playing with him.”

Olynyk played with big men Al Horford, Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller last season in Boston, but he hasn’t played with a center like Whiteside who can change games with his elite rim protection and rebounding. Whiteside led the NBA in rebounding (14.1) and limited the player he was guarding to 51 percent shooting from within six feet of the rim (10.3 percent worse than their normal shooting percentage from within that range) last season.

How much will Olynyk play as a power forward alongside Whiteside? According to Basketball Reference, Olynyk spent 91 percent of his minutes last season at center and just 9 percent at power forward.

Despite those numbers, the Heat believe Olynyk can be effective as a center and power forward and can play next to Whiteside.

“It’s a blessing for any team to have somebody who can just control the paint and control the game defensively like that,” Olynyk said of Whiteside. “When people can’t get anything easy at the rim, it makes it a lot tougher on teams. We saw that when we played them. It’s really tough to maneuver around the lane with him in there. So hopefully we don’t put too much burden on his shoulders, but it’s definitely great to have a guy like him behind you helping you out.”

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