WALTHAM – Kelly Olynyk is back…to full contact.
The ManBun was finally cleared for full contact, he announced at practice Saturday, after participating in some of the Celtics’ contact drills. Olynyk had been doing some limited and controlled contact drills earlier in the week, but is now taking the step to full practice.
“Doing a little contact, you know controlled stuff,” Olynyk said. “Just trying to ramp it up a little bit more everyday. Just trying to take a step in the right direction everyday.”
It’s been a long road back for Olynyk since his shoulder surgery in May. He was given a 5-6 month return timetable and says he is just about still on track to meet that goal.
“They said it’s going to take five or six months and I think five months was October 16,” he said. “So we still have about three weeks left, which is probably the middle of November, I guess, is what he’s thinking in terms of the timetable we were told at the start. It’s feeling good and the strength is coming and the stamina is coming. It’s just a matter of getting it to where we want it to be before we put it at risk.”
Of all the worst places to suffer an upper body injury, the shooting shoulder is at the top of the list for the 7-foot stretch five. He was the top three-point-shooting center in the league at 40.5 percent last season. His game and the Celtics’ offense relies on his threat as a three-point shooter, something that will take time to re-establish.
“When the time comes it will come,” he said. “You don’t want to force it, you don’t want to push anything and go backwards at all. Everyday you come in here, you want to take a step forward. That’s the goal every time you come here and every time I wake up, to take a step forward towards playing a bunch of minutes. ... For me, it’s all about when you’re comfortable and when you feel like you’re ready, then we’ll be back.”
Although it may seem like Olynyk is just starting to move toward playing, he has been rehabbing since the summer. The return process consists of months of workouts in the gym, pool and everywhere in between. With Celtics strength and conditioning coaches Brian Doo and Armond Lavallee on top of him, Olynyk has been working to limber and strengthen up since the surgery.
“I’ve been doing a lot of movements for six months now. I don’t think there’s any movement that B-Doo and Armond haven’t made me do yet. You try to keep all that motion, try to keep you quote-unquote loose, I guess. Not loose in the shoulder, but keeping the movement motion right. And we’re all trying to improve the strength. The stamina is really the big thing so you can play more than one possession.”
Olynyk sits two lockers away from someone who has gone through it all before, as Avery Bradley’s career was nearly derailed by a dual shoulder surgery program over the course of 2012. Bradley fought tremendously through tears to both of his shoulders in his second season to fill in for an injured Ray Allen during an unforgettable first-round series against Evan Turner and the Phildelphia 76ers.
Although the Celtics would go on to eventually watch LeBron James pull off a historic comeback against them in the Eastern Conference Finals and finally begin his ascension to GOAT level, they sorely missed Bradley. He had become one of the sharpest corner three-point shooters in the NBA that season and had a long recovery to make it back to being an effective deep shooter.
“It was hard man,” Bradley said. “I remember [then-Celtics assistant coach] Tyronn Lue took me to the side and he was like, ‘You’re gonna struggle.’ And when he said it to me, I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I went like two weeks without making a shot.
“But it just happens. That muscle memory, you have to get it back and it’s just reps. That’s what it took. It took maybe like a good month for my shot to feel good again. It probably will be the same for Kelly. Hopefully not, but if it is, I’ma be there to make sure that he’s positive and knowing that it’s a process he has to continue to get shots up.”
Bradley said the team has been behind Kelly, pushing him to be more confident in himself. Olynyk’s confidence issues on the court were apparent through his second season, but last season saw a breakthrough. There was a period between injuries where he was competing with J.J. Reddick and Kawhi Leonard for the highest three-point percentage in the NBA. But Bradley insists that to get all the way back and push beyond where you were to begin with, your confidence cannot waver.
“I think it’s still in the back of your mind, thinking it’s gonna happen again. He might not want to drive it to the basket as much or box out the same way or be aggressive. But like I said, we have to give him that confidence. He has to do his work as well. Staying in the weight room, making sure that he’s strong. We’re here to help, especially me as his teammate. I’ve taken him to the side like five times already like, ‘I’m here bro. Whatever you need me for.’ I’m just happy that he’s back. I know that he’s been waiting to go back on the court, so I’m happy for him.”
THIS IS 40: BABYFACE BRAD CELEBRATES BDAY, UPDATES SMART’S STATUS
That’s Brad Stevens in the middle of the scrum receiving an American Idol-caliber happy birthday rendition from his team and staff. Stevens doesn’t love the spotlight, as was pretty apparent in his awkward but entertaining coaches in cars getting coffee segment with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman Friday.
“I’m not a big fan of that, but I appreciate them saying it,” Stevens said of his short birthday celebration.
Stevens said that Marcus Smart has not been ruled out for Wednesday’s season opener as the Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets. Stevens noted that Smart is now out of his precautionary walking boot.
When asked if he wants to be more cautious with Smart’s return due to his history with ankle sprains, Stevens, as tradition, pulled the prudent “I’m not a doctor” card.
“I trust our staff. Our staff and Marcus will make that decision well, and then I play guys if they’re available.”
One guy who could be available is Ryan Kelly, whom the team signed Friday. Stevens says he has not talked to Danny Ainge about whether Kelly will be on the roster—which is unlikely barring a trade in the next 48 hours—but he is quite familiar with the 6’11” swing.
“He killed us two years ago. He had 19. I think it was here wasn’t it? And spacing the floor, and he passes the ball. Kind of what we were talking about with Kelly. His ability to make the right basketball play has always been one of his greatest strengths.”
Stevens underestimates his new signing, as Kelly scored a cool 20 against the Celtics on that fateful January night back in 2014. But of course, their biggest clash came when Kelly sat on the bench as his Duke team beat Stevens’s Butler in the national championship game in 2010.
“It was interesting. We talked about it for a minute because I had actually seen a lot of players on the Duke team this summer,” Stevens said. “And so I asked him about if he keeps in touch with those guys. But he was just a young pup then.”
Stevens has moved forward with his life since that painful loss, joking he’ll be fine coaching Kelly even if it brings up some painful memories.
“I’m not going to hold individual grudges. I just don’t like watching championship games anymore.”
UPDATE: 4:45 PM: The Celtics announced they have waived Ryan Kelly. He will likely sign a contract with the Maine Red Claws. What a time to be alive. Enjoy the quotes everyone.