WALTHAM — A year ago, Kelly Olynyk was a rookie trying to find his way. A year later, the 7-footer is helping the Celtics’ rookies do the same as they prepare for summer league.
“Vet training,” he called his new role with a laugh Tuesday after the team practiced at the Celtics’ facility.
Olynyk knows he can give the team’s first-round draft picks Marcus Smart and James Young plenty of advice, but they’ll figure out what they’re in for soon enough, especially when the Celtics open summer league play Saturday against the Miami Heat in Orlando.
“You know, you can tell them and tell them and tell them, but until you get out there and they experience it, you don’t know how much faster, how much stronger, how much quicker it is,” Olynyk said. “You can warn them, but it’s one of those things where you’ve just got to let them go like little kids — release them from the nest.”
If his goal at summer league last year was to prove he belonged, well, Olynyk still aims to do that again. But he believes his role is expanded.
“Every day that you step on the court, you have something to prove,” he said, “but I think it’s more about helping the young guys prove themselves and help them get acclimated out there and just make them as comfortable as they can be out there so their transition goes as smoothly as it can.”
Olynyk was the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, and the former Gonzaga standout was also the top vote-getter on the NBA’s All-Rookie second team after averaging 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 70 games with the Celtics.
Aside from a busy offseason, including a trip to Vietnam, Olynyk has worked on toning up and improving his 3-point shot to become more of a stretch-power forward the Celtics believe he can be.
“You’re always trying to [work on] that [shooting] stroke and make sure it’s as dialed in as you can, make sure you’re as big of a threat as you can be out there,” he said. “Definitely that’s the way the league is going and it definitely opens up things for guys like Marcus Smart and all those other guys to get into the lane and make some things happen.”
But Olynyk’s name has also been mentioned in recent trade rumors, specifically in a trade package the Celtics offered the Minnesota Timberwolves for star forward Kevin Love.
“You can’t really let it get to you,” Olynyk said. “You can’t not listen to it, but you can’t let it bother you. Until something happens, nothing is concrete and you’re still here until they make a move. Until they do that, I’m here ready to work, ready to make this team better and be as good as we can be.”
After his first practice as a Celtic, Smart smiled, relieved just to play basketball again.
“These last couple of days have been a whirlwind,” said the team’s No. 6 overall pick out of Oklahoma State. “It’s been a lot of celebration, excitement, and hype, but now it’s time to finally get back on the court and put the work back in. That’s what we do, put in work. And it’s time to get back to work.”
Are these first few practices like class — basketball 101?
“I wouldn’t call it class. I love basketball,” said Smart. “It’s not as boring as going to class. It’s fun, coming out here and learning things and doing what you love to do.”
Smart practiced at point guard, and said he still hasn’t talked to starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been running his basketball camp in his hometown of Louisville.
But Smart made an impression.
“Marcus is just a really enthusiastic team player, brought a lot of energy to this practice and we anticipate him bringing a lot of energy to every practice,” said Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, who ran the practice and is coaching the summer league team.
Said Olynyk: “He’s got lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, works real hard. His skill is definitely there for this level. I think it’s only going to keep getting better. He’s really eager to get in the gym all the time and I think he’s a guy with a great attitude, great energy and definitely his hard work will pay off.”
Young sits out
Young, whom the team selected No. 17 overall out of Kentucky, attended the first of three days of practice here leading up to summer league, but he did not participate.
“James didn’t go through workouts this morning because we’re still just being precautionary after his car accident a couple weeks ago,” Larranaga said.
Larranaga said he didn’t know if Young will play in the summer league.
“I’m sure [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and Coach [Brad] Stevens will talk about that stuff,” Larranaga added.
Some lingering neck issues as a result of that car accident, which was described as minor, forced Young to miss some predraft workouts with teams, but he still met with the Celtics before they drafted him.
Young averaged 14.3 points per game during his lone season at Kentucky.