Cereal: The public trial of Kelly Olynyk

From Celticslife dot com, this is 'Cereal: The Public trial of Kelly Olynyk.' I'm Matt Richissin.

Here's the case I'm working on: On Sunday, April 25th 2015 during game 4 of the first round of the playoffs, with five minutes and twenty four seconds remaining in the first quarter, Kevin Love and Kelly Olynyk scramble for a loose ball. An incident between the players take place, and it results in this dislocation of Love's left shoulder. Three days later, we learn that Love's labrum tore away from the bone and at the very least he'll be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks. Likely for the whole season.

Rather than to continue on and on about the goings ons of the event, let me show you the exact play Love get's injured. I should warn you that if you have a weak stomach, or are offended by graphic content, you should just continue to scroll down.

No one doubts that the injury was the direct result of the incident between Love and Olynyk. The question is if the result was Olynyk's intention. Meaning, if Olynyk maliciously tore at Love's shoulder with the explicit intention to injure Kevin Love.

Olynyk himself denies the accusations. Just to be clear, vehemently denies them:

Like I said before, it’s kind of ridiculous to say you intentionally meant to. I’d never intentionally hurt someone, him or anybody else for that matter. I don’t think anybody goes out trying to hurt anyone. I think it’s just real unfortunate.

That's all good and fine, but anyone can deny wrong doing. To know more, we must understand the man behind the denial better.

Kelly Olynyk

Here's what we know - or to be more on point, what we think we know about Olynyk - Not just a good kid, but an especially good kid. Smart, kind, goofy, Canadien. So when he's accused of intentionally injuring love many Celtics fans were stunned.

And to be clear, not just Celtics fans. Multiple people form Olynyk's past as well. Here's Brian Windhorst, who tried to dig into Kelly's past to see if there was anything that would point to Olynyk being, if just occasionally, a dirty player. From ESPN in an appearance from 'The BS Report':

I searched to see if he had a history. I was with all these Canadiens who were covering the Wizards/Raptors series they said 'No.' I said 'Do you know about this guy, in like, any junior international team, ya know dropping gloves with someone from the Ukraine, or anything?' 'No.' This guy is clean.

So, how does this goofy Canadian kid, who attended Gonzaga University and fulfilled a lifelong dream of making it to the NBA become this ruthless thug who intentionally hurts players players.

The Motive

What if I told you that Kelly Olynyk was embarrassed? His Boston Celtics were down 3-0 in the series, and things started off pretty poorly in game 4. In fact, at the time of Love's injury the Celtics were already down eight points. And while Olynyk wasn't solely to blame for the Celtics shortcomings, he was at least partially to blame; The Cavaliers had been consistently out-rebounding Olynyk's Celtics, arguably costing them their two previous games. And maybe that's a bit of sensationalism, but it certainly had a dramatic impact on the outcome.

Rebounding was such an issue that Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens called a timeout less than two minutes into game 4 after the Cavaliers were able to secure two quick offensive rebounds. Again, that's not all Olynyk's fault, but at least somewhat: Olynyk, who stands tall at 7 feet, had only secured four rebounds in the previous three games. And there's certainly an argument to be made that it was his subpar rebounding, that kept him on the bench for all but two minutes and forty one seconds of Game 3.

So it's easy to see why Olynyk might have wanted to come off the bench, and prove to his team and his coach that he was a tougher player than they had thought.

Kevin Love

That provides some level of motive. But what we don't know is; Why Kevin Love? Tristan Thompson had been the one really killing the team on the glass. If Olynyk was out to injure, why wouldn't he target him?

Shortly after the allegations started about Olynyk, a photo surface. It was of a basketball player hooking the arm of another basketball player. But this was't a photo of Olynyk holding Love's shoulder back - in the play that injured Love - it was of Love hooking Olynyk's arm. Here's that photo alongside an image of the play that Love got hurt on.

From afar, they're very, very similar. However it should be noted that the top picture is directly below the hoop, whereas the play where Olynyk is hooking Love is several feet away. But it does show why Kelly might be inclined to target Love.

Because hooking, and hand fighting is historically how Kevin Love rebounds. Here's ESPN's Brian Windhorst from the interview linked above.

Here's what you have to understand about Kevin Love. The way he rebounds is by doing that. He holds the other guy down, he holds them back. He's not a great jumper. He's not all that super quick. But he's an expert at the hand fighting. That's how he rebounds. After four games in a week I'm sure Olynyk and all the other Celtics were tired of it. They were tired of Kevin Love putting their hands in their chest, and pushing them back

That's all fine and good, but it's not exactly true. I went back and reviewed each of Love's 28 rebounds in the series. And to be completely honest, most of his rebounds come relatively uncontested. A product of him being the only one under the basket.

Sure, there's a few cases where Love pushes off. But certainly nothing you wouldn't expect on the basketball court. These happen on four occasions, though two come in the same possession. I've listed them below, though you won't see anything that'll get you too upset.

Now truth be told, I only reviewed the rebounds themselves. For all I know, Kevin Love might've murdered a guy (and I would've had to miss it when I watched the game) on a possession Love didn't get the rebound.

But it'd appear that if Olynyk was out to injure, it was either in retaliation to the image above or completely random. Windhorst may be right about how Love rebounds historically, but it doesn't appear to be the case in this series.

The Image, and the Play Itself.

The biggest case against Kelly Olynyk is the image above. Displayed in it, is Olynyk grabbing and ripping Love's arm as the ball is going in the other direction. It doesn't appear to be a basketball play by any means, and because of it, a lot of people are forced to believe that despite his squeaky clean image and history, Olynyk intended to injure Love.

Here's the thing, though - We'll probably never get a definitive answer to if this was his true intentions or not. No matter of consideration or discussion will ever provide a conclusive, no question about it answer to if Kelly purposely tried to hurt Love.

Let me provide you with my best guess, using stills from the play itself. It comes after Jae Crowder badly misses a three-pointer. Immediately, Love and Olynyk start fighting for position (remember, Stevens had called timeout just minutes ago). Love immediately goes to push Olynyk's body away, and Olynyk either attempts to swim over Love's extended arm of yank it a little back.

The ball bounces to their right, our left, and is momentarily free when Olynyk grabs Love's arm. Afterwards, he pulls Love's arm again. I had initially considered that momentum might've caused the second grab, but upon review it's clear that Olynyk's second pull is intentional. This is what people who believe Olynyk acted maliciously point to. This isn't under the hoop, it's feet away, with the ball bouncing in the opposite direction.

What happens after is important though. As the ref blows the whistle for the foul on Olynyk, Avery Bradley, who as you can see above had been near the elbow of the three point arc, grabs the loose ball.

Here's the full play again:

My best guess is that in the midst of a bit of a wrestling match, Olynyk, who has shown himself to not always be the most coordinated player, with his coaches words fresh in his mind, pulls at Love to take his momentum away from the ball in an effort to allow someone else on his team to get the ball. While this isn't a 'basketball play' by any means, it does happen during playoff basketball. And if it didn't result in an injury we wouldn't have given it another thought. Based off his character history and seemingly lack of bad blood between him and Love, I don't believe he intentionally hurt Love.