When you’re trying to decide whether or not it’s worth it to do a job, you’ve got to consider how much it’ll pay you versus how much time it’ll take. Sometimes, the math just doesn’t work out; the longer it takes you to do something, the less you’re making per hour, and the less enticing it is.
Sometimes, though, the calculus tilts in your favor. Like, for example, when two minutes of work can earn you a cool million bucks.
That was the situation Kelly Olynyk found himself in on Wednesday night. Entering the evening’s matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, the fifth-year big man out of Gonzaga had played 1,697 minutes and 39 seconds during his first season as a member of the Miami Heat. As it turned out, one of the incentive clauses included in the four-year, $50-plus-million contract the Heat offered him last summer was a minutes-played clause, triggered if the 7-footer reached 1,700 minutes in Year 1.
It was a mark he hadn’t reached in his first four seasons as a member of the Boston Celtics, with injuries and reserve status limiting the versatile power forward/center to a high of 1,538 minutes last season. But Olynyk has stepped into a larger role in Miami this season, posting a career-high 22 starts and averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists … and minutes. So he headed into the evening knowing that all he needed to do was log two minutes and 21 seconds of floor time to a secure a seven-figure bonus.
Olynyk didn’t expect that the Heat would have his million ready to hand over at the moment he crossed the threshold, but if they did, he knew just where he’d be putting it.
“I’d let [Udonis Haslem] hold it on the end of the bench,” Olynyk said before the game, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Smart man. Nobody’d be foolish enough to mess with the veteran enforcer. (You might have to make it worth his while, though. Protection is a racket, after all.)
As it turned out, there wasn’t a briefcase of bills or an oversized novelty check at the ready, but Olynyk did hit the mark before the end of the first quarter of Wednesday’s game, securing his bag one night after Miami secured its playoff berth by beating these self-same Hawks on the front end of a back-to-back:
Kelly Olynyk has now played 2 minutes and has met the bonus criteria for playing 1700 minutes this season. Olynyk will earn $1M and see his cap hit in 2018-19 increase to $12.5M.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) April 5, 2018
After a rough start that saw him miss his first two shots and pick up two quick fouls in 3 1/2 minutes of work, Olynyk (probably) heard cash registers in his head and chilled out, because he went off from there.
Olynyk nailed five of six 3-point tries in the second quarter, nearly outscoring the cellar-dwelling Hawks by himself as Miami took control of the game before cruising home after halftime to a 115-86 win that pushed the Heat a half-game ahead of the Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks into sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with just three games left in the season. He’d finish with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes of work … the final 20 or so of which were played with house money.
“Dinner, drinks, beers, all that is on him,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game, according to The Associated Press. “I’m going to see if I can get tickets to a play. All that is on him. I’m going to bill his account for everything.”
Olynyk’s ability to space the floor with his 3-point shooting, serve as a secondary facilitator with canny interior passing, and perform a surprise attacker from the elbows out of dribble handoff actions — all while holding his own more often than you might expect on the defensive end — enable Spoelstra to shake up his lineups, giving Miami the chance to match up with different kinds of opposing frontcourts on a night-to-night basis. Sometimes, that shuffling has led to static, but it also gives the Heat the flexibility to shift gears within games and try to find the advantages that can give a team that plays exceptionally hard, but that doesn’t have the top-end talent of some of its competitors, better opportunities to succeed.
When his number’s been called to maximize those opportunities, Olynyk has stepped up and answered more frequently than he has at any point in his career. As a result, he felt no compunction about bombing away from deep, burying the Hawks and ensuring that he’d leave Wednesday a million bucks richer than he entered it.
“I just made it rain,” he said.
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