Barry Jackson

If Heat plays Boston in first round, Celtics would see a different Olynyk. Here’s why.

Miami Heat center Kelly Olynyk has had a strong first season with the Heat
Miami Heat center Kelly Olynyk has had a strong first season with the Heat

Ask Dwyane Wade what he’s learned about playing with the Heat’s Kelly Olynyk for the first time, and you get a pretty candid answer.

“He’s good,” Wade said. “Didn’t know he was good.”

Olynyk enters his first postseason with the Heat on pace to establish career highs in points (11.5), rebounds (5.6) and assists (2.7) while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 37.9 on threes. Miami has outscored teams by 221 points when he’s on the court, and not only has Olynyk validated the Heat’s four-year, $50 million investment in him, but he also has expanded his game in ways he didn’t necessarily see coming.

“Somebody asked me a question about him during the summer when we signed him where I said he’s probably one of those guys where you hate to play against him but you probably love to play with him. And it’s turned out to be exactly that,” guard Tyler Johnson said this week. “I hated playing him in Boston the way he sets screens and the way he plays the game sometimes.

“But then when he’s on your team, you’re like, love this dude. He does all the dirty work plus he’s super skilled which you probably didn’t get to see as much last year. This year, he’s really shown the type of player he can be.”

Olynyk arrived from Boston as a polished player, having been schooled by respected coaches Mark Few at Gonzaga and Brad Stevens with the Celtics. But the Heat saw potential for more.

“I always think about our first conversation,” Erik Spoelstra said of that early-July chat after the Celtics renounced him to sign previous Heat target Gordon Hayward. “I really wanted him to think about it and if he thought it was the right fit, to take a chance on us and we would take that chance on him to try to become something different than who he’s been.

“He proved a lot before he got here. But he’s had a different opportunity with us, played more minutes and his game has grown because of his commitment … [and] to be open to the coaching and to want to be more.”

Olynyk recalls how Pat Riley and “Erik definitely talked about how much the Heat focuses on player development, trying to teach you to expand your game and reach your potential in ways you didn’t think you could.”

So how has his game evolved compared to what he did in Boston?

“I’m more involved, handling the ball a little more, try to facilitate more,” he said. “And I get a bit more opportunities here.

“They have a shot doctor here with Rob [Fodor]. They want me to shoot the ball way more and in different situations than I have shot previously — on the move, all over the floor. You’re evolving every day. If you went back and watched film of me last year and [this year], you would see a different player.”

Wade put it this way: “I knew in Boston that he hit the wide open three or he would drive left. That’s pretty much all he did. If he drove left, he shot faked. There was really not much else you had seen in his game like you do here right now.

“It wasn’t what [Boston] needed him to do. Here his whole game has opened up and he’s really good. It’s great to have a guy so unselfish like that. On certain nights, he can go for 30. He gets teammates involved. He’s a no ego guy.

“My 20 games here so far has definitely been a great surprise to be able to get a chance to play with him. He was hurt when I first got here and everyone was like, you’re going to like playing with him, and now I see” why.

Wade seems some similarities in how Olynyk and Chris Bosh play off pick and rolls.

“I was talking about that with UD [Udonis Haslem], very similar in certain ways,” Wade said. “KO is one of my favorite targets for sure.”

There is great mutual respect between the Heat and Celtics coaching staffs, and Olynyk feels fortunate to have worked with both in the first five years of his career. He would face his former team in the first round if Miami stays seventh in the East.

“I’ve learned a ton from Brad; I couldn’t ask for a better coach to be with the first four years,” Olynyk said. “To come here, I don’t know if you could pick a better second stop. Two of the best young coaches to play for.”

▪ Spoelstra said “it’s way too early” to know if Dion Waiters will be ready for the start of training camp after ankle surgery... James Johnson (who was poked in the eye during Monday’s Oklahoma City game) and Josh Richardson (who banged knees with the Thunder’s Steven Adams) are apparently fine; both aren’t on the Heat’s injury list for Wednesday.

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