Kelly Olynyk sums up his Miami Heat tenure succinctly.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of roles.”
Basically, all or nothing.
For two of the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, there was nothing, held out twice over that span by coach’s decision.
But now, with starting center Bam Adebayo dealing with a neck strain, the versatile big man found himself with an opportunity to have it all in Friday night’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
The result was 24 points and nine rebounds in 37 minutes, the first reserve, according to Basketball Reference, to record at least 24 points and nine rebounds off the bench in an NBA Finals game.
That came after being limited to 21 totals points in his five previous appearances.
“I’m kind of doing whatever the team needs,” he told the Sun Sentinel, “whatever that role is.”
Prior to the emergence of Adebayo, Olynyk was asked to serve in Adebayo’s current role, as a facilitator and fulcrum on offense. Then he was moved to the perimeter as spot-up shooter. Then he fell out of the rotation, but also kept on call in case an offensive spark was needed.
The spark was there in Game 2, even as the Heat lost 124-114 to fall to an 0-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series that continues Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.
Whether it will be requested or required again remains as uncertain as just about every twist and turn of Olynyk’s Heat tenure that began in July 2017, when he was signed away from the Celtics in free agency at $50 million over four years.
“You want to be contributing,” he said during a private moment earlier this postseason. "I go back to college, when people asked me, when I was looking at transferring part way through college [at Gonzaga], I said I want to be part of the reason why you win or lose. I want to contribute. You don’t to be just be going through the motions and stuff. You want to be counted on in situations and you want to be part of the reason why you guys are successful. That’s part of it.
“I think, in terms of a role, you always want to start. You always want to play big minutes. And you want to finish games. In the NBA, when your minutes run out, your life in the NBA runs out. So if you’re not playing, unless you’ve been in this thing for years and a big-time veteran and you have a voice and can help, a guy like UD [Heat captain Udonis Haslem], your time is going to run out. So, for me, and likewise for a lot of other players, you want that role.”
With a $13.2 million player option for next season, the 6-foot-11 veteran will have control of his future this offseason — to a degree. With cap space around the league extremely limited, an opt-in appears certain. But once he opts in, he then could be subject to a trade.
Games such as Friday’s show there still can be value there.
“I mean, obviously you’re never satisfied,” he said, "and I think you come out of a game and you have a career high, there’s still opportunities that you feel like you missed and or wish you would have had that one back. So you’re never truly satisfied.
“But I think, yeah, you’re a competitor, you’re a dog, you want to be in there, you want to play. You feel like you’re helping a team. If I played 12 minutes and we swept the whole playoffs and we won a championship, I think there would be a moment where I was definitely satisfied enough. But the goal is to win, that’s what you want to do. Obviously, you always want to play more and do more and impact more.”
At 29 and seven seasons into his NBA career, the rollercoaster continues.
“You can look at it like: What am I? Like, I’m always just like jumping around, doing whatever, I haven’t found my niche, so to speak, in this league,” he said. “But also, you look at it at the flip side, you’re like, ‘Damn, that guy is super versatile. And he can be this. He can be that. He can be the spot-up shooter. You can run offense through him. He can start and he can play the bigs. He can do a lot of different things.’”