BOSTON (CBS) -- Competing in international basketball is a useful tool for young players to improve in the offseason, but it's also a risky move. The level of play may not be as strong as in the NBA, but the injury threat remains the same, which we saw last month when Jazz point guard Dante Exum tore his ACL while suiting up for the Australian national team.
Kelly Olynyk has dealt with his fair share of injuries over two years of action with the Celtics, but he's not letting that keep him from playing with Canada this month as they attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. The talented young Canadian team, led by former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, is playing in the Tuto Marchand Cup this week as a warmup to the FIBA America's Olympic qualifying tournament later this month.
Boston's seven-footer had a strong start to his summer play on Sunday during Canada's matchup against Argentina, posting eight points and three rebounds in 15 minutes of court time. In the closing minutes of the game though, a nightmare scenario nearly unfolded when Olynyk went down with a left knee injury following a collision with a defender.
— Zachary Bennett (@ZacharyBD) August 23, 2015
Olynyk was down holding his left knee, limped to the bench and is now stretching it out in the tunnel
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) August 23, 2015
Olynyk did not suit up for Monday's game against Brazil, but the scary fall appears to be just a minor ailment for the 24-year-old.
I'm told Olynyk is okay, for what it's worth. Canada may play it safe with him in friendlies this week but should be good to go in Mexico
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) August 24, 2015
Triano said Olynyk is fine, they are just being cautious. Also said hard to play 11 guys, hence Hanlan today, Sacre yesterday.
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) August 25, 2015
At this rate, Olynyk should be ready to roll for qualifying play next week, an opportunity he takes very seriously. Perhaps reacting to the climate of wheeling and dealing that the Celtics roster has been faced with over the last couple seasons, the former Gonzaga star reflected on the security of playing for the national team.
"There's a lot of pride in playing for your country, a lot of emotion, passion that you sometimes don't see at different levels because you can get traded anyway … I wouldn't say it's hard to, but it's different to really feel attached to one place in the NBA if you're just bouncing around.
"But with Canada, obviously, they can't trade me to Germany, they can't trade me to Argentina. So when you're out here for your country, it's something very powerful, that passion, that love of the game and just fighting for your country, getting your country to that plateau."
Olynyk's devotion to his country is admirable, but his participation wouldn't be happening without the blessing of the Celtics. Boston is hopeful that the added reps the seven-footer gets will help Olynyk build upon an up-and-down regular season last year. The big man talked last month about how the two teams are coordinating to make sure Olynyk get the necessary rest needed to be prepared to start the 2015 season at full strength.
"We are definitely working together," Olynyk explained, "Making sure that when the season comes and when September comes that I'm as healthy and ready to go for the season as I can be, with the least wear and tear on my body. It's a long season, as everyone knows, so you don't want to get into February and March and be worn down. [You need] to make sure you are fresh and ready to go."
With a crowded frontcourt in place already and at least one player who will be sent packing by the end of training camp, thanks to 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster, Olynyk knows he might be a candidate for a trade. His play with Canada could help give Danny Ainge some added incentive to keep him around for the long haul.
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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