It is a comparison even more apropos in these times, with NBA benches boxed off from the court as part of the league’s social distancing at Disney World.
So when the power game of Meyers Leonard wasn’t working in Saturday’s scrimmage against the Utah Jazz, Erik Spoelstra went to the Miami Heat’s bullpen, summoning his junk-ball pitcher.
By the time Kelly Olynyk’s pitch count was up after 28:31 of relief, there were 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including 3 of 7 on 3-pointers, as well as eight rebounds. While it didn’t add up to a victory, it showcased the contrast in the Heat’s pivot rotation.
“Roles are always everchanging basically,” Olynyk said. “Not only with us, but for the whole league. For me, I’m just trying to come in this restart and help us win a championship. Build toward that, whatever that is.
“Obviously right now, I think my role is being in a lot of action off the bench and hopefully contributing in a positive manner.”
The opportunity came with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler held out of Saturday’s scrimmage. But it showed that in a change-of-pace moment, the Heat still have something unique to offer in these most unique conditions amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we still have obviously Bam to work back into the mix. Then obviously when Jimmy is playing, it looks a little different,” Olynyk said. “But just being a spark and being able to space the floor and get in triggers, kind of put us in actions that we can be successful in.”
Because he is neither closer nor starter, Olynyk’s minutes well could vary as much any player on the roster. And yet, moments such as Saturday’s offer a reminder of how effective he can be in his unorthodoxy, as he meticulously contorts his way through the paint or launches 3-pointers from places 7-footers typically don’t launch.
“After All-Star break, I started playing really well and shooting the ball well, just getting more in the groove and in the flow,” he said. “Then, obviously, the season got suspended. But I just kept that momentum going and just kept working on my body, making sure I stayed in shape and making sure I kept my skills up.”
With no assurances of what comes next, either in Tuesday’s 2 p.m. scrimmage finale against the Memphis Grizzlies, or at Saturday’s season resumption against the Denver Nuggets.
“He has had one of the better camps,” Spoelstra said. “He’s in tremendous shape right now. He really worked at it in May and June.
“Before we stopped play, he was playing his best basketball of the season and he’s just continuing to play good basketball right now. He’s really confident and he gave us really good minutes.”
Saturday was a reminder of what can accompany steady minutes, the Jazz having to adjust as much to Olynyk as the Heat did to Rudy Gobert.
“He’s been tremendous throughout training camp here, in Orlando,” guard Tyler Hero said Olynyk. “We all know, as teammates, what KO can do. We’re grateful to have him on our team. He’s 7 foot and can space the floor, and also can play inside. He’s great in the pick and roll. He can do everything.”
Including toss in an occasional changeup.
“I just came in here and we know what our goal is,” Olynyk said of the NBA’s basketball bubble that ultimately will crown a champion. “That’s my job, to help us get there.”
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