WASHINGTON – When you’ve been in the NBA long enough, you get a reputation for certain things whether warranted or not.
The Celtics' Kelly Olynyk is a 7-footer who can shoot 3’s, excels at passing out of the post and despite being somewhat athletically awkward-looking at times, is usually in the right place defensively which feeds into the narrative that he’s a solid positional, team defender.
And yet the growing perception of him among opposing players, is that he’s a dirty player.
His critics point to the Kevin Love incident a couple years ago in the playoffs, and most recently the spat between him and Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. in Game 3.
Oubre Jr. ran up and delivered a forceful push that led to Olynyk falling to the floor moments after Olynyk was whistled for an offensive foul while trying to screen Oubre Jr.
The league announced on Saturday that Oubre Jr. would be suspended for Game 4 Sunday.
“He should have been suspended,” said Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. “We’re not really worried about him or what they’re doing. We’re just worried about the Celtics right now.”
Olynyk didn’t have a lot to say about Oubre’s suspension, but he did speak about the growing perception of him as a dirty player.
“I don’t think I’m a dirty player. My teammates don’t think I’m a dirty player,” Olynyk said after practice Saturday. “It’s basketball. It happens. You have to set a screen, you box out, you have to do a lot of things. It’s not something you focus on. You just go out there and play the next game.”
And unfortunately for Olynyk, the Celtics have to wait an extra day before returning to the court.
While that was good for the body, it has left lots of time to think about what happened.
“It’ll be nice to get out there Sunday and play,” Olynyk said. “Stuff happens; everything happens. But it would be nice to be out there as a team after the loss we took, to get back out there and try and redeem ourselves.”
And while he’s speaking about the team as a whole, he could easily be speaking about himself.
Before the Oubre Jr. incident, Olynyk had not played well in Game 3.
And afterward, it was more of the same.
He wound up missing all three shots he took, tallying one point for the game.
And as much as Olynyk’s reputation may be taking a bit of beating right now, the Celtics still need him and his teammates to bring a certain level of aggression to the floor if they are going to win this series.
“Obviously, we have to try and prepare and do everything we can to play the right way,” Stevens said. “There’s a certain physicality that you have to play with, that all good teams play with. At the same time, there’s a line that can’t be crossed. That’s not one guy; that’s every guy on both teams.”
So as far as Olynyk being perceived by some as a dirty player, “No,” Stevens said. “I’m not worried about that.”