Miami Heat

Kelly Olynyk shows glimpses of why Heat signed him in team debut Wednesday

Erik Spoelstra said earlier this week the Heat “hated playing against Kelly Olynyk” in the past.

Spoelstra didn’t waste any time putting Olynyk on the floor immediately in his first game in a Heat uniform.

Olynyk started Wednesday night in his Heat debut and finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes in a 116-109 season-opening loss to the Magic.

Starting alongside Hassan Whiteside - a combo the Heat felt strongly about after seeing them in action in the preseason, Olynyk showed some of the versatility on the offensive end the team hoped for when it signed him to a four-year, $50-million contract in the offseason.

“Hassan is a high-level player, high-level big man in this league,” Olynyk said. “He makes a lot of other people's lives easier. I'm just out there trying to help him out and make his life easier as well.”

Whiteside finished with a monster game, scoring a game-high 26 points and collecting a game-high 22 rebounds.

Olynyk showed some of the skills particularly in that first half that the Heat were hoping to see including an ability to stretch the floor and complemented Whiteside on both ends of the floor.

Olynyk wasn’t satisfied with his performance overall since the Heat lost the game, but thinks he and Whiteside can improve and continue to gel on the court in time.

“Obviously we didn’t do enough things to win especially in that second and third quarter,” Olynyk said after the game. “I think we were alright tonight, but we can grow and get better as time goes on.”

Olynyk shot 3 of 7 from the field, and hit his lone three-pointer in two attempts — a triple that gave the Heat a 17-15 lead.

Olynyk exited when the Heat made their first subs midway through the first quarter, but returned and played with the Heat’s second unit that subbed in James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and also got rookie Bam Adebayo his first regular season action in the paint.

Olynyk recently praised the Heat’s willingness to let him expand his game.

Last season among 7-footers in the NBA, only five shot a higher percentage on three-pointers than Olynyk’s 35.4 percent (68 for 192). They were Marc and Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Karl Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.

Olynyk said he feels confident when he and Whiteside are on the floor together because of Whiteside’s defensive strengths.

“If anybody gets by you, you know he’s going to be a presence in there that’s going to if not block the shot, alter it and make somebody think twice,” Olynyk said. “He rebounds at an elite, elite level, the best in the NBA. Offensively he just draws so much attention in the paint. If he rolls, if he’s posting up, whatever it is it just draws so much attention and opens the floor up for shooters. And if you’re shooters, you hope you open the floor up for him.”

Olynyk said he hung out with Whiteside in the offseason and the two are developing a good rapport off the court.

“Yeah, he’s a great guy, always welcoming,” Olynyk said. “He’s unbelievable character, unbelievable person. I went to dinner with him last night.”

Olynyk did struggle a bit on the defensive end against the Magic’s quick and athletic frontcourt players.

During the initial moments of the second half, Olynyk’s plus/minus, which was a plus-4 in the first half dropped to minus-6 in the second half.

Spoelstra said after the game he would reflect on his choice of the Heat’s starting lineup on Wednesday and how to proceed with that the team’s rotations going forward.

Regardless, of whether he starts or comes in off the bench, Olynyk said he’s content with whatever role Spoelstra chooses for him.

“Whatever he decides he decides,” Olynyk said. “This organization has done a lot of great things under him. I believe in him. It’s his judgement. He’s going to put us in the best position to succeed.”

Related stories from Miami Herald