SPORTS

Canadian seven-footer Kelly Olynyk opens NBA account with Celtics in Toronto

10/30/2013 10:58 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
TORONTO - Kelly Olynyk's young basketball adventure returned him to Toronto on Wednesday night.

He opened his NBA account with four points in 16 minutes 18 seconds — second only to Kris Humphries and Jordan Crawford in time off the bench — as the Boston Celtics were beaten 93-87 by the Toronto Raptors before a crowd of 20,155 in the season opener for both teams.

The Canadian rookie showed veteran poise in his pithy assessment of the evening.

"As a team, obviously we'd liked to win the game. So from that perspective it didn't go as well as it could have," Olynyk said.

But as the media scrum evaporated in the spartan visitors' dressing room at the Air Canada Centre, he opened up a little more when asked if he had enjoyed the occasion.

"Yeah, I enjoy every opportunity I get to play the game of basketball," the Canadian national team player said with a glimpse of a smile. "Whether it be in Toronto, in Boston. I've been all over the world.

"Any time you get to play basketball, it's a good night," he added with a chuckle.

The seven-footer's line showed two-of-five shooting including two missed three-point attempts, two personal fouls and three turnovers

"I thought he was good," said Boston coach Brad Stevens, before dropping the nice talk and returning to reality. "I thought he looked like a first-time player on a road game in the NBA.

"But, you know, he's had great moments thus far. I said beforehand he's going to be one of our players that we'll go to all year. So he's just going to get better and better."

Stevens, who at 37 is just 15 years older than his big rookie, had spoken warmly about the Canadian prior to the game.

"Unless there's unusual circumstances, he's going to play a lot of minutes and he may lead us in minutes," he said. "I think he's a guy that can do a number of different things. I think we can run our offence through him, I think we can throw to him in the post, I think he can handle pass-and-shoot.

"He has really done a good job of embracing the defensive stuff. For instance if (Jared) Salinger were here, we may have started Olynyk. But at the end of the day and I told Brandon (Bass) this, we've just got to be ready and prepared for all those guys to make a huge impact. It's almost going to be like we have six or seven starters instead of five throughout the course of the year.

"But Kelly's certainly done a good job and will get ample opportunity."

Stevens was true to his word — in the first half. But the Celtics coach rode the players he had on the floor in the third as they clawed their way back from an 12-point halftime deficit, outscoring the Raptors 34-22 in the third to tie it at 71-71.

The first Celtic off the bench along with Crawford, Olynyk came in to cheers with 6:25 remaining in the first quarter. TV soon flashed to his family in the stands.

The big man was hard to miss, with his long hair flowing beneath a headband as he ran up the court.

His first shot attempt, a three-pointer, missed, but he scored his first points in the NBA with a reverse layup under the basket with 1:22 left in the quarter to give Boston a 22-20 lead.

He missed a jump shot early in the second and was substituted 2:16 into the quarter after an offensive foul — his second personal — that led to a turnover.

He returned with 2:54 remaining. The big Canuck finished with two points, three turnovers and two fouls in 11:33 action — the most after Boston's five starters — in a first half that ended with the Raptors leading 49-37.

Olynyk sat out the third, re-entering with 8:39 left in the game and Boston leading 76-75.

He stood tall under the basket on defence, looked to set picks at the other end and keep the attack alive. His aggressive defence led to Jonas Valanciunas to complain unsuccessfully that he was pushed off.

Olynyk came out with 4:27 remaining and Toronto up 84-78. He returned with 29 seconds and made a layup for the final points of the game.

"It was little bit more physical, some of the stuff got let go a little more (that) they were calling the pre-season," he said of his regular-season debut. "But it was pretty similar I would say."

Olynyk, who played in the ACC for Canada prior to joining the Celtics, was drafted 13th overall in the 2013 draft.

Olynyk was born in Toronto and spent 12 years here before moving to Kamloops, B.C., with his family. He grew up a fan of the Raptors, who were founded in 1995.

Basketball was part of his family.

His mother Arlene was a scorekeeper for the NBA team. Father Ken coached the University of Toronto basketball team for 13 seasons and also worked for the Raptors one year.

Both his parents were in the stands Wednesday.

There was another Toronto connection in Celtic green in the form of Humphries, a former Raptor.

The Celtics went 2-6 in pre-season, including 0-4 on the road, compared to 6-1 for Toronto. Boston lost 97-89 and 99-97 to the Raptors in pre-season play.

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