Free agency could throw a wrench into Olynyk’s plans to play for Canada

TORONTO — Kelly Olynyk was wearing the Canadian red and white when he slipped on the Mattamy Athletic Centre floor in August and fell. He landed on his knee so hard that people seated in the arena’s first couple of rows heard the thud during the exhibition game against Nigeria.

The 28-year-old has always been eager and willing to play for Canada’s men’s basketball team.

But free agency — particularly knowing first-hand the risk of injury — could throw a wrench into Olynyk’s plans to play for Canada this summer.

“Often the reason why guys can’t play is because they don’t have a contract,” the Miami Heat centre said Tuesday. ”It’s a lot to risk, especially with me playing (in August) and getting hurt and missing the training camp and pre-season, basically, and just trying to get back to 100 per cent, still.

“It’s not easy to walk into one of those things and to put your career on the line. And as much as you want to, and as much as you know you’d love to do it, it’s tough. It’s really tough to do.”

The 28-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., could opt out of his contract and become a free agent on July 1, just days after Canada’s last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria. The Canadian men must win the six-country tournament June 23-28 to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, what would be the team’s first appearance in 20 years.

“(If) I’m able to and my contract and stuff has settled out and I’m feeling healthy, then there’s no reason why I won’t be there,” Olynyk said after Miami’s morning shootaround at Scotiabank Arena.

The fact his home province is hosting the qualifier makes him more tempted to play.

“That’s amazing,” he said. ”Finally B.C. gets some love. The games are always over here in Toronto.”

If he had to skip the qualifier, Olynyk, who’s been part of the national program for a decade, could still join the Canadian team for Tokyo.

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who hasn’t played for Canada since the 2015 Pan American Games, stated on social media recently that he was fully on board to play this summer.

“I want to play my part to help push our team into the Olympics and compete at the highest world stage,” Murray wrote on Twitter.

It has sparked a groundswell of support from Canadian players, with the likes of RJ Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Melvin Ejim, Kyle Wiltjer, Trey Lyles and Dwight Powell all saying they planned to play.

Olynyk said watching the outpouring of player support has been “a weird process.”

“Why is it Dec. 1 or Nov. 27 or whatever it is?” he said. “But it’s nice to have the commitment and hopefully they stick to their word and can help us do something special.”

Olynyk, whose Heat were in Toronto to face the Raptors on Tuesday, said he was surprised the August knee injury that kept him out of the World Cup in China lingered as long as it did.

“I didn’t think it was that serious because I didn’t feel a shift or a pop or anything,” he said.

After a couple weeks of treatment in Miami, “I knew (skipping the World Cup) was kind of a done deal, which was unfortunate, because I wanted to be there. Because you never know what would happen if you’re there, another guy was there — it could be a different story right now.”

Seven teams qualified for Tokyo from the World Cup, but Canada finished 21st.

Olynyk is averaging 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds this season, only now finally rounding into form after his summer injury. Much like fractures, bone bruises heal slowly. It was six weeks before Olynyk was even allowed to do any work in the pool.

“If you keep (putting weight on the injury) it’ll stay and the bone’s gonna be weak. So you’ve gotta let it heal. And the only thing you can really do for that is time,” he said. “It’s tough. You’re basically there waiting and they’re telling you you can’t run, you can’t jump, you can’t do anything … So long, long process.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Recollections of well-known families in Red Deer

Past and present families recognized on Family Day

Assault suspect nabbed with sawed-off shotgun

Rocky Mountain House RCMP conduct investigation

New highway to B.C. proposed

The Howse Pass shortcut to British Columbia is worth taking another look… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP execute search warrant

Heavy police presence on Nash Street

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Reader’s opinion: Here’s how Premier Kenney can build a stronger Alberta

Apparently, the UPC government has decided that most seniors should pay more… Continue reading

14 Americans test positive for coronavirus as U.S. evacuates cruise passengers

U.S. officials said early Monday that 14 American passengers evacuated from the… Continue reading

New Brunswick premier admits ‘gaps’ in scrapped plan for overnight ER closures

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says criticism of his government’s… Continue reading

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

VANCOUVER — As cabinet ministers broker urgent meetings over rail blockades in… Continue reading

Trial of Quebec entertainer Eric Salvail hears testimony of alleged sex assault

MONTREAL — The trial of Quebec media star Eric Salvail opened Monday… Continue reading

Canadian snowboarder Blouin wins World Cup gold in women’s slopestyle

CALGARY — Laurie Blouin couldn’t wipe the smile off her face after… Continue reading

Alberta skip Laura Walker’s change of heart gets her to first Hearts

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Laura Walker wasn’t going to curl with a… Continue reading

Most Read