Will Hardy, the Utah Jazz’s head coach, knows Kelly Olynyk is important to the team.
The Utah Jazz’s frontcourt for the 2023-2024 season is expected to be Lauri Markkanen at the three (small forward, John Collins at the four (power forward), and Walker Kessler at the five (center). That’s how it’s supposed to be, barring any injuries, or issues with the personnel. That means one Utah Jazz player who started last year, Kelly Olynyk, will now be coming off the bench.
And that’s not something that’s going unnoticed by second-year head coach Will Hardy. Speaking to the media on Friday, Hardy revealed that finding a way to make Markkanen, Collins and Kessler work is going to be a challenge, and he has to adjust his expectations, saying (via Sports Illustrated)
"Take Lauri [Markkanen] and Walker [Kessler] for example. I think what I think of those two people, but everything I think about them is based on them playing a lot with Kelly Olynyk. They’re both going to play a lot with John Collins this year, so I have to think about them a little bit differently, and I have to be flexible on what I’m willing to do or try with them in order to make that three-person group of Lauri, John, and Walker work to the best of their abilities.History informs you of certain things. I’m not going to totally try to abandon anything that I think of those guys, but I have to scale back my bias to start the year."
And it seems as though Olynyk is quite the popular person among the coaching staff, with Hardy going on to talk about what Olynyk brings to the team beyond his passing. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, Hardy sees Olynyk as the most selfish player on the team, describing him as being the team’s Katniss Everdeen, of Hunger Games fame, with the Tribune quoting Hardy as saying;
"I’m gonna go with Kelly [Olynyk]. Kelly has a way of fitting in with everybody. So we have one. I’m sure the other guys will be offended."
And even put over Olynyk’s tenacity, telling the media he’s very tough but that you won’t expect it from him;
"Yeah, but you don’t think that when he walks in."
Jazz GM Justin Zanik, via the Salt Lake Tribune, really nails down the point about Olynyk with the team culture being about flexibility, saying;
"There has to be a culture of flexibility and understanding that we’re as a collective group trying to win every game and compete. And some days, it’s going to be a particular set of eight or nine players and another game, it may be a different set of eight or nine players. Continuing on that journey and being connected together, I think, will be my biggest hope for the group."
With the way the team is talking, it really does seem like someone like Olynyk may be around longer than expected. It could also be a situation where they may be talking about how John Collins can earn a new contract with the team. If he defers more and expands his skillset, Collins could be getting a new deal alongside Lauri Markkanen sooner than we think.