BOSTON – It never fails. Kelly Olynyk and Phil Pressey will just be getting comfortable, at their apartments or in some hotel room in a random NBA city, and they’ll get a call.
Get me food. Get me soap. Get me … candlesticks?
As rookies, Olynyk and Pressey have been the errand boys for the Boston Celtics this season, trekking anywhere and anytime for whatever demands the veterans can think up. It’s a somewhat inconvenient experience, but neither one has complained.
“That stuff doesn’t really bother me,” Olynyk said. “Sometimes, when you get on the road, it’s kind of boring. You just sit in a hotel room all day. So if they want you to go get a candlestick, or whatever they want, at least it gives you something to do.”
Come April 17, the vets will have to get their own candlesticks. Just eight games remain in Olynyk and Pressey’s rookie campaign, and while basketball is basketball, there have been surprises.
“It’s not at all what I expected,” Pressey said. “The travel and business-life approach, it’s a lot different. In college and high school, when you’re younger, it’s all fun. In the NBA, it’s still fun, but it’s your job. It’s your livelihood. You’ve got to take it like a job every single day. Whether you hurt your ankle or you’re tired, you’ve still got to get up for work.”
Olynyk can’t believe it’s nearly over.
“It went by really fast, actually,” he said. “Everyone says it’s a really long season, but right now it feels like we just started, and all the sudden, it’s about to end. It just zoomed by.”
Neither rookie is willing to label this season a success, given the Celtics’ 23-51 record, but for a late lottery pick and an undrafted free agent, it went about as well as could be expected. Olynyk is averaging 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game after shooting a season-best 52 percent from the field in March. Pressey’s playing time has been up and down, although he has made seven starts in Boston’s injury-plagued backcourt.
They heard the NBA season was a grind, and they don’t disagree. But the amount of free time has been an adjustment. It’s easy to see how young players lose focus, once the constant vigilance of college coaches and academic compliance officers is replaced by pro assistant coaches who are always willing to help players improve their games — if the player wants. Pressey admitted that with all the travel, the errands and the hours he spends in the gym, he sometimes forgets to sleep.
A pivotal offseason approaches for both rookies. Celtics coach Brad Stevens has drawn up summer plans for every player, and he might have spent the most time on two of his youngest charges. Olynyk’s shooting and passing skills as a 7-footer could make him a trade chip or a building block for Boston’s future. Pressey’s contract is not guaranteed next season, which makes it vital for him to improve his outside shot, as he already possesses excellent court vision and is a willing defender.
But the offseason hasn’t arrived just yet. Olynyk and Pressey have made many strides this season, but perhaps the most important stride will be the one they take through the finish line.
“Right now, we’re not having a winning season, we’re not going to make the playoffs, so it’s kind of hard not to look to next year,” Pressey said. “But once we step on that court, for the rest of the season, my competitiveness takes over and I don’t even worry about next year. Yeah, I guess you could say I’m looking forward to getting better and improving, but right now I’m trying to finish the year as strong as possible.”