Rockets center Kelly Olynyk hopes to play for Canada in 2021 Olympics

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Ben DuBose
·3 min read
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Though he’s set to become a free agent in the 2021 offseason, it doesn’t sound as if that will stop Houston Rockets big man Kelly Olynyk from playing on the international stage with his native Canada.

Having adjusted to the NBA’s revised 2020-21 schedule, Canada’s final Olympics qualifying tournament will take place from June 29 to July 4 in Victoria, British Columbia. If Canada advances, games at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 23 to Aug. 8. While some NBA players could be participating in the 2021 playoffs into July, that obviously will not be the case for Olynyk with the rebuilding Rockets (14-40).

Canada has not qualified for the Olympics since 2000. Its competition for the final Americas spot in Tokyo will be Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Uruguay.

At 30 years old, Olynyk is aware this could be the final Olympics to take place during the prime of his career, and he doesn’t want to miss out on that prestigious opportunity. “Yeah, that’s obviously my goal,” Olynyk said at Wednesday’s team shootaround in Houston. “I’ve played for Canada for more years than I’ve played in the NBA. It’s always been a goal of mine to play in the Olympics, and represent Canada on the highest stage. Hopefully, I get that opportunity.”

In many cases, NBA players who are not under contract have declined to take part in international competitions, citing injury risk. Though he acknowledges it’s a consideration, Olynyk wants to find a way to play. “You’ve got to think about it, whether it’s insurance, or what the best route to go is,” he said. “We’ll cross those bridges when they come. Obviously, my goal is to go out there and play and represent my country.”

While NBA free agency is expected to occur in August, it’s possible the Rockets and Olynyk could agree to terms on a contract extension beforehand. If so, that could alleviate those concerns.

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Olynyk could be among a handful of NBA players on the Canadian squad. Before the 2020 qualifying tournament was rescheduled, Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dillon Brooks, Dwight Powell, RJ Barrett and Khem Birch had committed to compete. Murray, however, is unavailable in 2021 due to his recent ACL tear, and others on that list hope to still be playing in the NBA playoffs.

In 10 games with the Rockets, Olynyk is averaging 16.9 points (58.5% FG, 37.3% on 3-pointers) and 7.9 rebounds in 29.6 minutes per game.

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