BOSTON – Kelly Olynyk returned to the court for Team Canada on Tuesday, following an injury scare that sidelined him for nearly a week of international action.
The seven-footer showed no physical signs of the knee injury upon rejoining the Canadian starting lineup in Mexico City, but he did exhibit plenty of rust. The 2013 first-round pick notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes, but struggled on both ends of the court at times in a 94-87 loss to Argentina. The game was the start of pool play for Canada at the FIBAs Americas Olympic qualifier tournament.
Offensively, Olynyk was one of four Canadians to score in double figures, but the big man failed to do it efficiently. He went a meager 4-of-13 from the field, and missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc. Several of Olynyk's misses came from point-blank range on putbacks, likely a telling sign of a player who hasn't played live basketball for a few days.
In an interesting twist, Canada head coach Jay Triano also had the former Gonzaga star post up on the block for multiple possessions in the contest. That's something the Celtics haven't tried to utilize yet with Olynyk, but could prove to be a valuable skill to the team, if developed appropriately on a Boston roster with limited post options.
The 24-year-old did manage to contribute in other ways beyond his lackluster shooting. His 10 rebounds were a team-high, while he also dished out four assists, including an impressive dish to former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett to setup an alley-oop.
Olynyk showed off some impressive ballhandling in the first quarter as well, grabbing a rebound and going coast-to-coast with the ball for an easy finish in the lane.
That type of aggressiveness is something the Celtics coaching staff will surely like to see more of from the big man, but was also a positive sign that Olynyk's knee is 100 percent or close to it.
Still, one of the biggest weaknesses in Olynyk's game remains his defense and that was fully on display against Argentina star Luis Scola on Tuesday. The NBA veteran erupted for 35 points and 13 rebounds, as Olynyk and a host of other Canadian defenders failed to slow down the 35-year-old who will suit up for the Raptors next season.
Scola and his teammates outhustled Team Canada for much of the contest, feasting on the offensive glass for 14 second-chance opportunities. Olynyk and his teammates must finish off plays like this if they hope to make it through an intense round of Olympic qualifying.
Olynyk gets a chance to bounce back and rebuild his confidence Wednesday against some easier competition in Cuba, a team that lost its FIBAs Americas opener by 30 points to Puerto Rico.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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