SALT LAKE CITY — A familiar face made a slightly surprising appearance at the Celtics’ first summer league practice here Sunday. There was third-year forward Kelly Olynyk, flowing around the 3-point arc and draining one long jump shot after another with assistant coach Jay Larranaga’s hand blocking his view.
Olynyk was not required or even expected to be here. But he has been working diligently at the Celtics’ training facility in Waltham, and when the opportunity arose to continue his training with the summer league squad, he didn’t hesitate.
“You’ve got access to impeccable facilities in Waltham or in Boston, and you’ve got all the knowledge here,” Olynyk said. “The coaches, the trainers — not only the strength trainers, but I go to the medical trainers — whatever you need is here. Why go somewhere else and pay for it all or do any of that when they want you to be around and I want to be around?”
At the end of this season, Celtics coaches emphasized the importance of players staying connected to the team. They did not ask them to stay in Boston for the entire offseason, but the general message was that stopping in here and there and maintaining some sense of continuity could be important.
“I think it’s the culture Coach Stevens is creating here,” said Larranaga, who will coach the Celtics during the three-game Utah Jazz Summer League. “We like having guys around. We’ve had a lot of guys at the facility this summer working on their games, coming back just to say hello . . . you saw Kevin Durant yesterday supporting [the Oklahoma City summer league team in Orlando]. It’s the right example to set. Kelly is one of our younger guys, but he’s on the right path in that way.”
The Celtics will face the Jazz in their summer league opener at 9 p.m. on Monday. They will then face the 76ers on Tuesday night before closing out this round-robin event against the Spurs on Thursday
Stevens said the players who have not returned to Boston this summer have remained active and engaged in the process, too. They’ve sent him text messages asking about the rookies’ progress, and some have indicated that they will visit Salt Lake City this week or Las Vegas next week to check on the team.
“There’s a really good kind of collective feel to the whole thing,” Stevens said.
For Olynyk, it is an opportunity to connect with new and old teammates and to develop his skills. He had a solid if slightly uneven second season, averaging 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He has been working to develop a quicker release on his jump-shot and to become a more consistent shooter in general.
“As long as you’re improving and you have an upward trend,” Olynyk said, “I think you’re going in the direction you want.”
The indelible image of Olynyk’s season actually came in the final game, when he and Cavaliers forward Kevin Love tangled chasing a rebound and Olynyk clamped down on Love’s left arm, ultimately dislocating his shoulder and sidelining him for the rest of the playoffs.
Love was furious with Olynyk at the time, calling it a “bush-league play.” But on Sunday, Olynyk reiterated that Love had reached out in May and that the two had moved past the incident.
Olynyk is now focused on taking the next step in his development. Although he will not play in any games here this week, his teammates are certainly aware of his presence.
“It just shows a lot about Kelly, his determination,” guard Marcus Smart said. “He didn’t have to be here, nor did [third-year guard Phil Pressey]. They asked the coaches if they could participate because of the players they are, their work ethic. They want to get better, and what better way than the summer, when everybody else is probably on vacation?”
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The Los Angeles Lakers intend to sign forward Brandon Bass at the conclusion of the NBA’s moratorium period, according to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Terms of the agreement were not immediately known.
When the Celtics signed forward Amir Johnson to a two-year, $24 million contract last week, the end of Bass’s time with the Celtics seemed all but certain. The forward averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game over four seasons with Boston.
“Boston has been great to me over the last couple of years,” Bass said after the Celtics’ season-ending playoff loss to the Cavaliers.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.