As Kelly Olynyk sat up front in the interview room at the Utah Jazz’s practice facility on Tuesday afternoon, the first query put to him by the media was an egregious run-on that touched on the first day of training camp, his thoughts on being traded, his new role on his new team, and several other things.
Olynyk, without missing a beat, deadpanned, “Wow, that was like five questions in one.”
Awkward, but funny.
And yet, the moment was something of a metaphor, considering all the questions the Jazz’s fan base have about the trade that sent out Bojan Bogdanovic and brought back Olynyk and Saben Lee.
In their summer of discontent, the front office’s modus operandi had been to shed its top assets for either future draft picks or young and talented players who have proven to be distressed assets in some way or another.
As for this deal …
Olynyk is a 31-year-old entering his 10th NBA season, with career averages of 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 36.5% shooting from 3-point range. Lee is a 6-foot-2 backup point guard who’s appeared in 85 games over his two seasons, averaging 5.6 points, 3.3 assists, and 26.5% from deep, and who might not stick with the team past this week’s training camp.
The veteran stretch-big, though, can’t really concern himself with whether he represents sufficient value for the popular player the Jazz gave up — he’s just here to try and do what the team asks of him to the best of his ability. He couldn’t discuss the situation during Monday’s media day — he had to sit out official interviews because Bogdanovic had not yet passed his physical in Detroit.
On Tuesday, though, with the trade finally official, he had plenty to say, Canadian accent and all.
“I’m excited — I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to be a part of this out here,” Olynyk said. “I love the people they have in the front office, I think they have a great direction and plan in place in where they want to get to and want to go and how to get there. I believe in them.”
Jazz CEO Danny Ainge has some degree of familiarity with the Gonzaga alum, having worked out a deal with Dallas to draft him No. 13 overall in the 2013 draft and get him shipped up to Boston.
Olynyk, meanwhile, said he sees parallels now between this Jazz team and some of the other young and rebuilding squads he‘s been with — the Rockets, the Pistons, and especially those Celtics.
“It’s crazy because when I got drafted by Boston, we were almost in the exact same situation with Danny that they’re in here right now. You have some older guys with experience, you have some young guys, you got a bunch of draft picks coming in for the next few years, and you’re just trying to get better every single day, whatever that is,” he said. “And in Boston, we had a young first-year coach in Brad [Stevens], and now we have a first-time, young head coach in Will [Hardy]. And I think it’s going to be great for us — everybody’s going to be pulling the rope in the same direction. And that’s how you move things.”
Hardy says he hasn’t yet committed to lineups or rotations or even really schemes just yet, and that he’ll use all of training camp and the team’s four preseason games to assess what he’s got and how best to deploy it.
That said, he acknowledged that Olynyk can be a useful piece in multiple ways.
“Kelly is a really versatile player. He’s obviously been around the NBA for a while, so he has a lot of just sort of corporate knowledge of how to play in the NBA,” Hardy said. “But he’s a really smart, skilled basketball player. He can play in a couple of different positions on the floor, and just provides us with a lot of intelligence.”
For his part, Olynyk acknowledged that he felt like the trade “came out of nowhere,” catching him by surprise because of its proximity to the start of camp, but added that in the days he’s been around the organization, he’s already come to appreciate Hardy and his new staff. He praised the 34-year-old for having “a basketball mind” but also because he “lets guys play free” and allows them to “be themselves.”
He said he appreciates that, rather than going extremely young like those Houston and Detroit teams he was on, this Jazz roster has some “guys who’ve played meaningful minutes in NBA seasons and games.”
What that will translate into, who knows. But in spite of all the questions, there is one thing Olynyk is sure of sure of this season:
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”