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With veteran big man Kelly Olynyk set to enter free agency, it’s far from a given that he will be back in Houston for the 2021-22 season. Yet, even after the Rockets (17-55) finished with the NBA’s worst record, it’s clear Olynyk genuinely enjoyed his experience and is open to a return.
In 27 games since being traded from Miami to Houston at the March 25 trade deadline, the 30-year-old put up the best numbers of his NBA career — with averages of 19.0 points (54.5% FG, 39.2% on 3-pointers), 8.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 31.1 minutes per game.
Olynyk has raved about his fit with the Rockets and his admiration for head coach Stephen Silas, and it appears that his comfort with the fit extends to the surrounding Houston community, as well.
On Instagram, Olynyk wrote after Sunday’s season finale:
I’m so thankful to be a part of this community, one that welcomed me with open arms. Thanks to all the fans, and to each and every one of you that stood with us through it all. Can’t wait to get back to work this offseason. 🤜🏼🤛🏼
H-Town Hold It Down!!
In comments to reporters after Sunday’s game, Olynyk said he speaks highly of the organization. “I think it’s deservedly so,” he said.
As for free agency in early August, Houston does have Bird rights on Olynyk’s contract to help keep him. However, it’s unclear how aggressively general manager Rafael Stone will bid on Olynyk, financially, given the team’s potential need for cap flexibility in future years.
Similarly, from Olynyk’s perspective, it’s unlikely he would give the Rockets too much of a discount, if any — since he’s now in his 30s and doesn’t have too many years left at peak earning power. It’s also possible at his age that Olynyk might prefer a situation with a better short-term opportunity to win, though it should be noted that Houston’s lowly record was due in large part to injuries that should heal over the offseason.
As a result, even with both sides happy after the initial 27-game run, it’s not yet clear whether the partnership will continue into the 2021-22 season. Olynyk’s decision could also depend on the types of offers he receives, or doesn’t receive, from other teams around the league.
Nonetheless, the good vibes certainly can’t hurt. “My time here was shorter, but I enjoyed it a lot,” Olynyk said. “It was a great experience.”