BOSTON — You often hear of basketball players, especially those in the midst of some sort of slump, “putting in extra work” after games. They’ll shower up, drive from the arena to the practice facility and hone their craft into the wee hours.
That type of after-hours effort is beginning to pay off for Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk.
No Celtics player has experienced more peaks and valleys this season than Olynyk. The second-year big man began the year as one of head coach Brad Stevens’ more reliable scoring threats, only to then fall out of the starting lineup entirely a month into the schedule.
But Olynyk seems to have regained his mojo after slogging through one of the roughest patches of his young career in late November and early December. He’s scored in double figures off the bench in four of his last five games, and he’s coming off a two-game stretch in which he posted a career-high 30 points Monday in a rout of the Philadelphia 76ers and shot 75 percent from the floor Wednesday in a 109-92 win over the Orlando Magic.
“Kelly really wants to be good. That’s clear,” Stevens said after Wednesday’s game. “… Kelly’s work ethic is excellent. Kelly’s back at the gym almost nightly regardless of outcome — there all the time.”
And the coach isn’t the only one who’s noticed.
“It’s pretty simple,” point guard Rajon Rondo said. “The guy works. He’s never settling. Even when he might play 20, 25 minutes a night, he’s still going to the gym (afterward). That shows a lot about his character and his dedication to the game.
“It’s good to see your teammate succeed. I’m a very unselfish player, and when a guy goes in the gym after games and works, and works, and works, when he comes out and has a 30-point game against Philly and follows it up with a great game (Wednesday), that’s a great feeling as a teammate to see that hard work pays off.”
So, what does this late-night training entail? According to Olynyk, it involves making note of every shot he took in a given night’s game, and then taking each shot again. And again. And again.
“Usually, what I do is shoot every shot I got in the game 20 or 30 times, at least,” said Olynyk, who finished Friday’s game with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting. “Make or miss.”
While this isn’t exactly what Stevens means when he implores the big man to shoot more — as he has on numerous occasions, including Wednesday night — it shows that Olynyk is more than willing to put in the work necessary to take that next step from promising rookie to consistent contributor.
Plus, it’s just what he likes to do.
“I just always love to play the game, and I love to be in the gym,” Olynyk said. “Win, lose, play well, don’t play well — that’s where I’ve found peace in my life. It’s kind of like a sanctuary.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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