So what did new Heat addition Kelly Olynyk tell a remorseful Hassan Whiteside after the Heat’s center was ejected for elbowing him in the back of the neck in a game here in Miami in March 2015 and then apologized for it?
“I just told him, he’s a great player and he’s got superb upside and talent ‘Don’t let emotions or a temper whatever it is, don’t let that hold you back and prevent you from being great,” said Olynyk, who finalized a four-year, $50 million deal with the Heat on Friday and spoke to Heat beat writers by phone late in the evening.
“I told him he has a great opportunity,” he continued. “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 a truly an unbelievable character.”
So much for any old, festering drama rearing its head.
Even though they went hard at each on the court as foes over the last couple seasons – and delivered a few nasty elbows or forearms in the process – Olynyk, 26, said he’s actually looking forward to learning from Whiteside, 28, and playing alongside him.
“I mean Hassan is a tough, tough cover,” Olynyk said. “With his size, length and ability to clog up the paint, block shots and roll and get to the offensive glass and the rim, he’s real tough to guard. Because you have to have a body on him the whole time you’re out there. You kind of got pick and rolls and you have to stay on his body and stay on Goran on the ball screen. It’s really tough.
“He causes a lot of problems. Defensively, he’s a competitor. Guys can’t function in the paint. It’s going to be awesome playing beside him and not have to go up against him every night, to be able to play beside him and kind of learn from him. Going against him every day in practice is going to make it easier to get your shot up against other people.”
▪ Olynyk, who didn’t become a free agent until July 4 when the Celtics released him to create cap space for the impending signing of Gordon Hayward, said he “didn’t even look at the Heat as an option at first.” But as team president Pat Riley alluded to in a statement Friday, the Heat pounced quickly.
“I think they were talking to my agent right after my rights were renounced,” Olynyk said. “I had a couple teams talking to me and we were weighing on going with whatever we had and then my agent called me and said ‘Get over here, we have an offer from Miami I think that can be very special and a great spot for you.’ I got on the phone in with Pat and [coach Erik Spoelstra] after that and talked about it.
“[We talked about] the opportunity and the fit, what would it mean to be part of this organization and this culture and this great city. It kind of just happened. Looking back, I think it's going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
▪ Olynyk said he took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles Thursday after agreeing to the deal with the Heat and arrived in Miami Friday morning where he met with team officials and a couple of his new teammates when he signed his new contract.
James Johnson, who signed his own, four-year, $60 million deal on Friday, said he feels Olynyk fits right in with the Heat even if he has a reputation for being somewhat of a dirty player having been involved with the season-ending injury to Kevin Love in the playoffs two years ago.
“The Miami Heat culture is not for everyone,” Johnson said. “We don’t fit everybody’s needs or their style of play. I’m sure when Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra talk about it, they’re all on the same page with things. They all have the same feelings – that Kelly Olynyk is a Miami Heat guy. And that’s why they went after him. I'm just happy for him that he can find a home and let that home be the Miami Heat.”
Does Johnson think Olynyk plays dirty?
“He’s just a competitor,” Johnson said. “Every time I see him go out there and play, he plays as hard as he can. I don’t see him doing too much jawing or anything like that. He lets his game do the talking. Getting into little physical altercations and all that, that’s all just part of the game. Me personally, I love this stuff. So I’m all for that.”
▪ Olynyk said he feels like he will fit in well with the Heat for a variety of reasons besides the fact he can take advantage of being a spot up three-point shooter with Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic and others distributing the ball. The Heat’s collective personality, he says, meshes with his,.
“It’s a bunch of hard working guys out here who go out every night and play their butt off,” Olynyk said of the Heat. “You got skilled guys and guys who just go out and play together. When we played them last year four times it was a battle every single night. You couldn’t take one possession lightly. That’s what it was all about. I think the way they play and the fact they have a bunch of people able to handle the ball and a bunch of guys being able to make plays for each other, just how hard they play on the defensive end and together and then their tempo as well I think it’s a great fit for me and I think I will fit right in.”
Olynyk said the Heat’s history of developing players also played an important factor in him choosing to sign with Miami.
“You hear all about the culture. Like you guys say, world class shape,” Olynyk said. “Just the way they develop their players, they turn guys who have been in a box for so long into guys who breakout of that box and become something special. You can see it from top to bottom with their roster. You go back years and years and years, and you see it over and over and over again. It’s very exciting to see that and it’s something that drew me to this opportunity and this situation. Not only my fit on the team, but for your career and your development, I think it’s a great place to be.”
▪ How do Riley and Miami plan to utilize Olynyk? What does the Heat want him to improve on as a player?
“Just kind of broadening my ability and my skills to be able to pass the ball and make plays and handle the ball a little and stretch the floor for these dynamic guys they have,” he said. “And to be able to complement guys like Hassan and Bam [Adebayo], the rookie, not just with their abilities to cause havoc in the paint, hopefully pull defenses away and give guys more space to operate.”
▪ Why does Johnson think the Heat will be better next season with basically the same group back from last season’s 41-41 finish?
“It takes more than one year to gel as a team and I think the way that coach Spo allows us to coach each other and coach ourselves through the bad and the good, confront each other, be vulnerable, enable each other to become better players and not enable each other in a bad way,” he said. “ hat was why we gelled so quickly and were able to have a successful second half.
“I just think this year, we’ll just continue it and we know what we want out of each other and we know we’re going to hold each other accountable. We don’t have to wait 30 or 40 games until we start doing that.”