Kelly Olynyk relishing chance to pass on 'tricks of the trade' to young Pistons
Detroit — At the beginning of free agency this summer, several NBA teams went big-game hunting, looking to make a splash with players who would improve the roster and make a splash.
From the outside, big man Kelly Olynyk wouldn’t seem to be one of the big fish, but he was the Pistons’ primary target, looking to improve their frontcourt with a versatile big man who could fit a specific set of criteria. They signed Mason Plumlee before last season, and he exceeded the expectations that many had.
Olynyk, at 6-foot-11, brings a different skill set that general manager Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey will fit the current roster a bit better. Casey said when he coached with the Toronto Raptors, he kept an eye on Olynyk to try to bring his blend of perimeter shooting and scoring to their roster.
“Kelly Olynyk is a great find by Troy and his staff. I've had a man-crush on Kelly since Toronto. He's from Canada and we always tried to get him there when I was in Toronto. He's a well-respected young man,” Casey said this week. “He'll have a high usage rate because he's such a great passer, has a high IQ, and great 3-point shooter. He's going to add an element to our offense, and to our defense because he is a communicator defensively.”
Olynyk, 30, is entering his ninth season, and after spending four seasons in Boston and three-plus seasons in Miami before a midseason trade to the Houston, he’s looking to make a big impression with the Pistons.
He becomes the oldest player on the Pistons’ roster, and they’ll look for him to add to the veteran mix with a roster that is comprised mostly of players in their early 20’s.
“I just thought it was a great opportunity and you have a great group of young guys. I love the way they play; they play hard and play together and there are no egos — you just go out and have fun playing basketball,” Olynyk said. “For me, I'm at a point in my career where I think I can really help a team like this, a young team with leadership on and off the court and just teaching guys because I'm nine years in now and you have those tricks of the trade and it's time to pass them on.”
When the Pistons traded Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor in the offseason, they had to revamp the roster at the center position. Now, they have a young center rotation, with Olynyk, along with Stewart and rookie Luka Garza.
That leaves a lot of that grooming to Olynyk, who is embracing that new responsibility as a leader in that group.
“(It’s) Stewart and Garza and Jamorko (Pickett), just helping them out. Just teaching them the ins and outs of game and how to be a professional and what to look for when you're playing the game and stuff you don't always know,” Olynyk said. “They're great, talented players and they have bright futures in this league. I just want to help them reach that.”
Joseph helping lead the herd
Cory Joseph is in a similar situation of being the most experienced veteran with a group of young point guards. Joseph, 30, returned in free agency and has the primary responsibility of working with Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes and acclimating them to playing the position in the NBA.
For Killian Hayes, who could open the season as the starting point guard, it’s been a journey, following a tough start to last season.
“He came in as a rookie and everything going on with COVID and getting injured and he was feeling his way. Now, I think the No. 1 thing is that he's playing with a lot of confidence and that's the main thing,” Joseph said. “He's working on his skills and you'll see that during the year. He's just hooping and playing free and being Killian, which everybody loves to see. He's had a great summer and a great start to training camp as well.”
Joseph said he’s been impressed with Cunningham as well, and after watching some of his games in college, he likes the maturity and versatility that the rookie brings to the position and how that can help the Pistons.
The Pistons announced Wednesday that they have released wing Deividas Sirvydis and added wing Jared Cunningham to their training camp roster. Sirvydis played with the team last season and was signed to a training camp deal Tuesday, but they decided to move in a different direction.
Cunningham, 30, was a first-round pick from the Cavaliers in the 2012 draft. He hasn’t played in the NBA since playing four games with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2016.