Erik Spoelstra following Heat’s preseason loss to Spurs
Kelly Olynyk is always ready to try new food.
Even after shedding 16 pounds last year in his first season with the Miami Heat, food remains near the top of Olynyk’s list of off-court interests. Ask the 7-footer about a specific dish, and he will come back with an answer so detailed that you’ll believe you just ate it.
“Probably the most interesting food I ate this summer was when I went to India and I had to eat a bunch of real traditional Indian food,” said Olynyk, who spent part of his offseason in India to serve as a coach for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.
“It was amazing. The spices, the meats that they prepare. India is different because they don’t eat any cow, they don’t eat any beef because it’s sacred over there. So it’s all chicken, duck and lamb. It was really quite fascinating going to a different country and learning about their food.”
For Olynyk, 27, last season was about learning and trying the Heat’s way of doing things after spending the first four seasons of his NBA career with the Boston Celtics.
Olynyk’s time in Miami began with a weight-loss program and it continued with a career-high 280 three-point shot attempts (70 more than his previous career high).
“They asked me to shoot the ball a lot. A lot of shots in a lot of different ways — off the move, off screens, off this, off that,” said Olynyk, who averaged career-highs in points (11.5), rebounds (5.7) and assists (2.7) while shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range in his first season with the Heat.
“That’s obviously not something I was doing a lot of. I was doing a little bit in Boston. But just trying to stay aggressive. Growing up as a point guard, I have that pass-first unselfish mentality. Sometimes they want me to be a little more aggressive. So that’s something to try to focus on or work on.”
But Olynyk has grown accustomed to the Heat’s demand for more shot attempts. He has also grown accustomed to coach Erik Spoelstra’s outside-the box basketball ideas.
“The way he does it doesn’t always go by the rules or guidelines or the typical process the way a regular basketball offense or game should go,” said Olynyk, who is entering the second season of a four-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Heat last summer. “There are a lot of times where they kind of put the ball in my hands and let me create or be a trigger for the offense, and making passes, plays and reads. That utilizes my IQ to the best ability. That’s something I really enjoyed.”
Olynyk dedicated his offseason work to his ball-handling, playmaking skills, outside shooting and balance — all aspects of his game that are emphasized by the Heat’s coaching staff.
Now, the question is: How many minutes will Olynyk play next to center Hassan Whiteside this season?
As part of a crowded frontcourt, Olynyk and Whiteside are expected to have to log some minutes together to create enough playing time for both big men. This combination didn’t produce positive results last season, when the Heat was outscored by 12 points in the 186 minutes the pair of 7-footers played next to each other.
Olynyk is hoping they get another chance, though.
“Hassan is a great guy to play beside because he’s really an anchor defensively and on the offensive glass he can really cause havoc,” Olynyk said. “When he’s playing to the best of his abilities and his max potential, he’s really a force. I think we can definitely be a good inside, outside combo.”
An answer to the Whiteside-Olynyk issue will come once the regular season begins Oct. 17 in Orlando.
For now, Olynyk is worried about another answer to a question he’s facing. And it has to do with trying new food.
“I need a new game-day lunch spot,” Olynyk said with a smile. “So anybody out there that knows a good healthy game-day lunch spot, that’s what I’m looking for right now. I have a routine, so I like to eat the same thing every game day. Right now I’m in test mode.”
▪ The Heat faces off against the host Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Spectrum Center.