“I think it’s open,” Heat forward Josh Richardson said. “The last decade basically it’s been LeBron out of the East every year. I feel like everybody feels they kind of have a clean slate to go ahead and attack this year with more of an open chance.”
And that means the Heat. Richardson and Kelly Olynyk are among the several players in Las Vegas to attend summer league games and check in on Tuesday’s players association meetings.
Richardson was asked what surprised him most about free agency and it wasn’t James’ decision to leave his old team rather one player’s decision to stay with his old team.
“The biggest thing that surprised me, probably (Paul George) staying in Oklahoma City,” he said. “I thought he was leaving.”
Olynyk agrees the conference is more open but he warns a lot of teams are hunting to replace the Cavaliers in the Finals. Cleveland has come out of the East four consecutive years, a streak that matches Miami’s from 2011-2014 when James played for the Heat.
“It definitely opens up a little bit, but there’s still a lot of great teams,” Olynyk said. “It’s only one player gone.”
Could one of those be the Miami Heat? The Heat have been quiet during free agency, which was not unexpected. Miami entered $18 million over the salary cap and Pat Riley knew if he were going to make any moves it would have to be through trades and, so far, none have materialized.
Still, the Heat, including Richardson and Olynyk, believe Miami has enough within to improve from its 44-win 2017-18 season, which had them No. 6 in the East. Miami then lost to Philadelphia in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
“I think we’re still a playoff team in the East, definitely,” Olynyk said. “We have a way to go. But if we keep building on last year and hopefully improve. … take our shot at it.”
Richardson took that one step further.
“Yeah, definitely,” Richardson said. “We felt like that last year. With No. 23 out of there it’s a little tough but I think we’re contenders.”
MIAMI — The Heat entered the offseason with a lot of questions surrounding their roster and very little financial flexibility to make significant changes.
Excluding cap holds, the Heat have 11 players under contract for 2018-19 who are due about $120 million. That puts Miami way above the $101.9 million salary cap and very close to the $123.7 million luxury tax line.
Unable to sign players into space because the Heat are capped out, they will have to rely on exceptions, minimum contracts, the power of Bird rights or even trades to fill out their roster.
The NBA starts a new fiscal year at 12 a.m. Sunday, which also signals the start of free agency and what once again will be a busy offseason. The Miami Heat may not be as big a player as usual this offseason because of roster and payroll limitations, but president Pat Riley still will be busy trying to find a way to upgrade his roster, however difficult that may be.
Decisions over the past two years have helped put Miami in this position. Signing Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson to four-year deals that combine to cost them $200 million last summer, and investing $98 million in Hassan Whiteside and $50 million in Tyler Johnson the previous summer has left the Heat with very little wiggle room to make changes to their roster. Continue reading “Here’s how Pat Riley defended the roster decisions the Heat made last summer”
Kelly Olynyk is in a much different place this offseason, literally and figuratively.
The Miami Heat big man is more relaxed with a set schedule now that he has a home after entering last summer as a free agent before signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Heat. And Olynyk is spending part of his offseason in India, where he is serving as a coach for the NBA Academy India for the league’s Basketball Without Borders Asia. Olynyk has been in India for about a week and will return home this weekend.
We caught up with Olynyk today on a conference call to talk about his experience half way around the world and the rest of his summer.
Q: What has it been like in India?
KO: “The experience has been awesome. You know, any time that you get to experience another culture, another country, it’s great. It’s a life-changing experience. It’s something that you can learn from, grow from and take back to wherever you’re from.”
Q: Have you done any sightseeing?
KO: “We got to see a few different things. We were up to the Taj Mahal, which was an unbelievable sight. And I think it’s something that pictures and words don’t do justice. You’ve got to really see it with your own eyes. It’s that special. And then we drove to Delhi, which is one of the major cities our here in India and then we went to a big temple out here, Akshardham. It’s a place of worship and something that’s really close to the India culture and the way of living, which is pretty cool to be a part of and see it, kind of experience.”
Q: You attended a Basketball Without Borders camp in Mexico City nine years ago as an 18-year-old, what’s it like going from a camper to an instructor?
KO: “It’s pretty cool. It’s almost a nostalgic feeling when you walk in there seeing these kids sitting in the middle of the floor and knowing nine, 10 years ago that was me sitting right there. It’s fun to share that experience with them and help them realize what it means to compete at the highest level. Give them a little bit of opportunity and give them some helpful insight to the game, just try to help them along the way. Hopefully they can continue to progress and get better. Who knows, maybe one day they are doing the same thing for kids in eight or nine years as well.”
Q: What’s this offseason been like compared to last year’s deep playoff run with Celtics?
KO: “It’s definitely different. When you’re playing that deep, it takes a toll on your body and you really don’t have much time. Last year, we were in it kind of until the beginning of June and then it was basically three weeks until free agency, so there wasn’t much downtime at all. This year, obviously, unfortunately, we had a little more down time, but it gives you a little more time to do some more things, experience more things in life and kind of take a mental break from the game and refresh yourself.”
Q: Will this summer be easier mentally being part of team now vs. entering last summer as a free agent?
KO: “Yeah, definitely. Last July was pretty chaotic and a little bit hectic to say the least. To be able to go through the summer without that on your mind and to be able to focus on yourself and improving yourself, helping yourself and in turn help the team next year that’s what it’s all about.”
Q: How does rest of summer shape up for you?
KO: “I’ll hopefully be back in Miami in the near future, before the national team stuff starts (Olynyk will be playing in the World Cup qualifying for the Canadian men’s national team). Get back there, get some more workouts in with the guys there. Kind of set a little schedule up for the summer, get on the same page and then off to the national team in mid to late June and then after that it’s all working out from there.”
Q: What went behind your decision to play for the Canadian national team this summer?
KO: “It’s always a debate people have, guys should play, guys shouldn’t play. I think it’s really to each their own. Some people need more time or more rest. Other guys just want to play basketball. For me I love giving back to my country that raised me and gave me all the opportunities to be where I am today. That’s something that’s really special to me. Anytime I have the opportunity to put on that jersey and fight for my country I’m welcoming that opportunity to step up to the plate.”
But Olynyk, who is at the NBA Academy India in the National Capital Territory of Delhi to serve as coaches for Basketball Without Borders Asia, knows how one of the more bizarre Finals games ended Thursday with controversial plays at the end of regulation and overtime of the Warriors’ 124-114 victory over the Cavaliers.
Olynyk, talking with Heat writers on a conference call, was asked about Cleveland’s JR Smith forgetting the score at the end of regulation and dribbling out the clock with the game tied and the Cavs’ Tristian Thompson taking offense to Golden State’s Shaun Livingston taking a shot in the final seconds of overtime instead of holding onto the ball and being called for a shot-clock violation.
Olynyk, a five-year veteran who spent his first four seasons in Boston, said it’s not that unusual for somebody to lose track of the score.
“I feel like I’ve forgotten the score before,” he said. “You’re down one and you think you’re up one. Then you realize it and it’s too late. That happens all the time. It’s human. Everybody is a human.”
But Smith happened to do it at the most crucial time on the biggest stage after rebounding teammate George Hill’s missed free throw with less than five seconds remaining with the score tied at 107, and dribbling to halfcourt before realizing the situation.
Smith tried to say he knew the score and was looking for an opening for a shot. But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said that Smith thought the Cavaliers were leading.
Olynyk said the only thing a team can do is move on and get ready for overtime, something the Cavaliers did not do very well being outscored by 10 points.
“It’s in the past,” Olynyk said. “You’ve got to strap up and play overtime. There’s not much else you can do. You have five more minutes to win a basketball game.”
As for the final seconds of overtime and Thompson being called for a Flagrant 2 foul and being ejected, Olynyk said it does not matter to him if a team tries to score late in a game that is decided. He referenced the Heat’s Game 2 playoff win over Philadelphia when some of the Sixers were not happy that Heat guard Goran Dragic dribbled down the court for an uncontested layup with 1.2 seconds remaining in Miami’s 113-103 victory.
“Obviously it depends on where you’re playing and what you’re playing for,” Olynyk said. “If you’re playing in FIBA, points for and against count. So you have to do that. That’s been Goran’s approach his whole life. That’s part of basketball in the international game. Points for and against, sometimes tiebreakers come down to that.
“In the NBA it’s a little different. It’s kind of like a sportsmanship thing. It’s something you do that you run out the clock. I don’t really think it makes a difference personally. Whether you lose by 17 or 20 or whether you win by eight or win by nine or whether you have 12 turnovers or 13 turnovers. It’s not affecting the outcome of the game. It doesn’t really matter to me. It doesn’t really make a difference to me. It doesn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game, win and loss record. If a guy wants two more points we’ll give it to him and move onto Game (2).”
The Warriors said it’s their philosophy never to take a turnover.
“It’s habit,” Olynyk said. “They don’t want any habit that leads to a turnover. I guess that’s whatever. … their prerogative.”
Kelly Olynyk attended a Basketball Without Borders Americas camp in Mexico City nine years ago as an 18-year-old.
The Miami Heat big man will be on the other side in one week, joining three other NBA players and two former WNBA stars at the NBA Academy India in the National Capital Territory of Delhi to serve as coaches for Basketball Without Borders Asia.
The event will be Wednesday though June 2.
Olynyk, who is from Canada, will be joined by Oklahoma City’s Corey Brewer, Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert, Dallas’ Dwight Powell (also from Canada), two-time WNBA Champion Ruth Riley and former WNBA player Ebony Hoffman. They will coach the top high school age campers from throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
“I just want to be able to give and serve,” Spoelstra said at the time. “It’s a great game that we all feel so grateful for. I’ve done a lot of the NBA programs in the Philippines and other places in South Florida. But I’ve always wanted to be a part of BWB in Africa.… and to offer my services for the week. However little those may be, I just want to be able to help and contribute.”
BWB Asia 2018 will feature two current prospects from NBA Academies, the league’s signature elite player development initiative that consists of a network of elite basketball training centers around the world for top male and female prospects from outside the U.S. Since October 2016, NBA Academies have been launched in Australia, China; Delhi NCR, Mexico City and Senegal.
Players and coaches will lead the campers through a variety of activities on and off the court, including movement efficiency, positional skill development, shooting and skills competitions, 5-on-5 games, and daily life skills seminars focusing on health, leadership and communication.
Current assistant coaches Bret Brielmaier of the Nets, Darvin Ham of the Hawks, Ryan Saunders of the Timberwolves and Mike Wells of the Jazz also will serve as coaches.
BWB has reached more than 3,190 participants from 127 countries and territories since 2001, with more than 50 former campers drafted into the NBA or signed as free agents. A record 24 former BWB campers were on opening-night rosters for the 2017-18 season.
The NBA and FIBA have staged 53 BWB camps in 33 cities across 27 countries on six continents. More than 250 current and former NBA, WNBA and FIBA players have joined more than 200 NBA team personnel from all 30 NBA teams to support BWB across the world.
MIAMI – Perhaps the biggest leap of faith the Miami Heat took during a very busy summer of 2017 was with 7-foot Kelly Olynyk.
The Heat has just been stung by free-agent target Gordon Hayward, who shunned Miami to rejoin his former college coach, Brad Stevens, and sign with the Boston Celtics.
The plan then was to re-sign forward James Johnson and guard Dion Waiters, and attempt to pick up the option on guard Wayne Ellington’s contract. But there was money remaining and the Heat had to move fast.
That’s when the idea of Olynyk, a versatile big man whose skills perfectly fit today’s NBA, came to mind. The Celtics had waived Olynyk to make room for Haywood and Pat Riley wasted no time, contacting Olynyk’s agent while flying back to Miami from the West Coast after learning they lost out on the Hayward sweepstakes.
“I still always go back to Kelly and that free-agent call that he and I jumped on before he made the decision,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said following the season. “(We) really recruited him but also told him how much we respected him because of the battles that we’d been in and thought that this could be a great fit for him, to transform and become even more, with a little bit more opportunity. And he bought into it wholeheartedly with both feet.”
The fit was better than envisioned as Olynyk had his best season averaging 11.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists while playing a point-center role. And at 27, the Heat and Olynyk believe he has plenty of room to grow.
“I definitely had the best year of my career and I’ll keep building on that this summer, hopefully keep expanding my game. … Just kind of taking that same role that I have this year and just expanding it,” said Olynyk, who was the Heat’s third-leading scorer during the playoff series against the 76ers, which lasted just five games. “I’m going to do those things better.”
Olynyk will split time this summer between Miami and his home in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province. He will work with the Canadian National Team, and run his camp – Olynyk Klynyk – in late July and early August.
Olynyk’s role evolved as the Heat realized they were getting an even more savvy, heady and skilled big man than they thought and Hassan Whiteside’s production dipped, requiring more minutes from Olynyk and rookie center Bam Adebayo.
Those minutes paid off. Olynyk had a bonus attached to his four-year, $50 million contract that added an additional $1 million if he played at least 1,700 minutes. He reached that threshold in the season’s final week pushing his 2017-18 salary from $10.6 million to $11.6 million.
The deal turned out to be one of the smartest moves by the Heat last summer.
“He already is a tremendous worker, very skilled, very well coached over his college and pro careers that it was really fun to see his growth and his progress this year,” Spoelstra said. “He became a player that I think on every team we played. … he was high on their scouting report, that you have to handle him to be able to handle the Heat.
“And it was a lot of fun. Working with him, I think he has that kind of upside that he can make another big jump this summer, particularly the way he works. He can come back something different next year.”
Olynyk also is making his mark on the community. Olynyk loves kids and has vowed to do what he can for others, something he started during his four years in Boston, which honored him this past season for his charitable work by presenting him with the city’s prestigious “Heroes Among Us” award.
Olynyk, who has visited schools and hospitals since arriving in South Florida, had his hair cut last week to donate his locks to Wigs For Kids, a nonprofit organization which creates wigs for children who have lost their hair either permanently or temporarily due to a medical condition.
“Inspired by some of the amazing kids I’ve met over the years at the Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Holtz Children’s Hospital, and elsewhere, I am donating my hair to @wigs.for.kids,” Olynyk wrote on his Instagram page.
Olynyk’s role for 2018-19 will not be defined until Whiteside’s future is known. If the Heat trade their underachieving $98 million center, that would open up a spot in the starting lineup that likely would go to Olynyk or Adebayo. If Whiteside returns, he probably will start and Olynyk’s role could expand to play more with a low-post dominant player like Whiteside.
But Olynyk is open for anything. Last summer, he accepted the Heat’s offer basically on blind trust and faith. That was rewarded by the franchise bringing out the best in his game.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Olynyk said. “You’re going into a new situation. They called me and I was signed the next day. I never came down here, I never had a face to face meeting. It was nothing like that. I kind of just took a leap of a faith and jumped in here. They were arms wide open in welcoming me and trying to help me elevate my game and take my game to the next level. It was great. It was great to be welcomed like that and to be utilized in such a different manner than I have been before.”