TrueHoop: Jonny Flynn

Flop of the Night: Jonny Flynn

April, 27, 2012
Mason By Beckley Mason
HoopIdea wants to #StopTheFlop. To spotlight the biggest fakers, we present Flop of the Night. You can help us separate the pretenders from the defenders -- details below:

Jonny Flynn has spent just five weeks playing with the Portland Trail Blazers, but this Flop of the Night shows he's working hard to learn from veteran teammate and 3-pointer flop artist Jamal Crawford.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Flynn spots up in the right corner where he's wide open for a 3-pointer. However Flynn looks more concerned with drawing the foul than hitting the shot. As his defender flies by, Flynn goes down as though all muscle control suddenly flees his legs in mid-air.

Credit Flynn this much: he truly is a committed actor, listen closely and you'll hear him yelp a verbal flop as well.

Even accounting for the unconvincing dramatization, this is a truly bad flop because it takes Flynn out of the action. After picking himself up off the floor, Flynn lags behind the play as the basketball gods (or just Jamaal Tinsley) punish him for his floppery by pushing the ball up court for a three-on-two that ends in a Josh Howard bucket.

A big thanks to @KennChapman17, who not only caught the flop but sent in an exemplary tweet to alert us.

However the playoffs are sure to provide a veritable cornucopia of flops, so keep your eyes peeled and tweet @HoopIdea when you spot a #FlopOfTheNight!

Here's how to make your submission:
  • Alert HoopIdea to super flops with the Twitter hashtag #FlopOfTheNight (follow us on Twitter here).
  • Use the #FlopOfTheNight hashtag in Daily Dime Live.
  • E-mail us at

The star-crossed Clippers and Timberwolves

January, 20, 2012
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
The Sam Cassell-for-Marko Jaric trade in 2005 set into motion a series of bizarre and historic events.

Almost seven years ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers swung a trade on a sleepy August day.

The Clippers sent combo guard Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers to Minnesota in exchange for 35-year-old point guard Sam Cassell and a Timberwolves first-round draft pick that was lottery protected for the next six years.

And so began an odd relationship between two teams whose fortunes became inextricably linked. For the next several years, the Wolves and Clips mysteriously ran into each other everywhere and got trapped in the same elevator more than once. Cassell retired nearly three years ago and joined Flip Saunders' coaching staff in Washington. Jaric married model Adriana Lima and was last seen in a Montepaschi Siena uniform. Yet that trade still has enormous implications today, as the teams prepare for a Friday night matchup at Staples Center that will be nationally televised on ESPN -- something that would've been unthinkable even a year ago.

Cassell led the Clippers to their most successful season in history in 2005-06, when his mouthy leadership took the team within a Raja Bell 3-pointer of the Western Conference finals. The Timberwolves won 33, 32, 22, 24, 15 and 17 games respectively over the next six seasons and, for a stretch, somehow displaced the Clippers in the Crapola Sweepstakes as the NBA's most ridiculed franchise, even after the Clippers fell back to earth.

The Clippers had historically stood as the team most likely to botch the NBA draft, but the Timberwolves were nipping at their heels. For a while, the Brandon Roy-for-Randy Foye trade dogged the Wolves. Then, in the 2009 draft, the Timberwolves were mocked for choosing three point guards in the first round -- Jonny Flynn, Ricky Rubio and Ty Lawson -- Flynn and Rubio back-to-back at No. 5 and No. 6. Rubio's first reaction when Minnesota picked him? "It's cold there." The Timberwolves kept Flynn while trading Lawson, chosen at No. 18, to Denver (as instructed by the Nuggets as part of a trade). Today, Flynn rides the pine in Houston, while Lawson is running point for an impressive team in Denver.

How did the Timberwolves score the pick for Rubio? They fetched Mike Miller from Memphis in an eight-player deal featuring O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love, but included Jaric. The Timberwolves eventually sent Miller, along with Foye, to the Wizards for the pick that became Rubio. Foye, of course, is now in his second season with the Clippers.

Before the Timberwolves cornered the market on first-round point guards in 2009, the Clippers took Blake Griffin at No. 1. While Griffin was the obvious choice for the Clippers, it's easy to forget that Rubio was leading many draft boards during the winter and spring of 2009, and there was a reasonable minority that felt he was the finest prospect in the draft. Sacramento was the odds-on favorite to win the first pick before the lottery betrayed the Kings, and many observers had the Kings selecting Rubio if they landed atop the board. Had the Clippers not had Baron Davis locked into an extended deal, Rubio might be in L.A.

After the Clippers selected Griffin, they began the process of rebuilding. In the two seasons following the 2009 draft, they recruited half the Timberwolves' roster. Craig Smith, a former second-round pick of the Timberwolves, became a fan favorite in Los Angeles, while Ricky Davis became a fan unfavorite. Sebastian Telfair, who came over with Smith in a deal for Quentin Richardson, served as Davis' backup for 39 games (before landing back with the Timberwolves a season later). Needing to fill out their depth on the wing in the summer of 2010, the Clippers signed Foye and Ryan Gomes to modest multiyear deals.

Lingering above all this is what became known in Los Angeles as simply "The Minnesota Pick" -- the one the Clippers acquired along with Cassell in 2005. The worse things got for the Timberwolves, the more excited Clippers fans and execs became at the prospect that the misery in Minnesota would outlive the lottery protection on the pick. If the Timberwolves could continue to be awful for just a couple more seasons, the Clippers could conceivably have a top pick in 2012! When Rubio opted to remain in Europe for two seasons, that possibility went from remote to real.

"The Minnesota Pick" ultimately became a centerpiece of the most fateful trade in Clippers history just a few weeks ago, when the team reeled in Chris Paul from New Orleans. The pick was the one asset that set the Clippers apart from other suitors, and the Hornets were adamant about its inclusion in any deal.

On Friday night, Paul -- hamstring permitting -- will face off against Rubio in a contest between two of the most telegenic teams in the league. Individual matchups are often overrated, but Paul on Rubio -- and Rubio on Paul -- has a marquee quality to it. In a league dominated by point guards who earn their livings on the attack, Paul and Rubio are throwbacks to a time when vision trumped speed. Prefer a big-man brand of basketball? Keep your eyes on the low block, where Griffin and Love will wrestle for supremacy.

The Timberwolves have been rewarded for their patience, the Clippers for their craftiness. Now two teams that have been tethered together in the Western Conference dungeon for the better part of a decade will get to show off their shiny new toys.

Sources: Jonny Flynn on market

February, 23, 2011
Ford By Chad Ford
The Minnesota Timberwolves already have made one trade -- for Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry. Will they make more?

A number of GMs are telling me that the Wolves are out there offering Jonny Flynn around the league. Flynn was the No. 6 pick in the draft in 2009. The Wolves drafted Flynn and Ricky Rubio in the lottery -- passing on a number of other more successful guards including Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Darren Collison to get them. But injuries and general poor play by Flynn and the possibility of Rubio joining the team this summer now have the Wolves looking to move Flynn.

Where will he land? Sources say the Wolves have offered Flynn to the Jazz as part of a Raja Bell deal. They also are talking to several other teams, including the Blazers, about a deal.

To see dozens of NBA trade rumors, check out NBA Rumor Central Insider

Day Five Las Vegas summer league roundup

July, 14, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
At summer league, athleticism is the most commonly cited variable to distinguish NBA-caliber players from the rest of the talent. DeMar DeRozan's athletic gifts established him as a Top 10 pick in 2009, despite an underwhelming one-and-done season at USC. DeRozan displayed his explosiveness and agility for much of the 2009-10 season at varying levels of refinement, finishing his rookie campaign with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 12.58. He showed strength (finishing near the rim) and weakness (playmaking) in the precise areas where you'd expect an athlete to succeed and fail.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Can DeMar DeRozan fill the void in Toronto?

Chris Bosh's departure leaves the Raptors with a vacuum in their offense, and DeRozan is probably the only player on the roster with the dynamism to fill that void. But to be the name on the marquee in Toronto, DeRozan will have to graduate from an athlete who can ball to a ballplayer who can leverage his athleticism. If he's going to achieve as a shooting guard, he must extend his range to beyond the arc, where he converted only four shots during his entire rookie season. DeRozan will also need to apply all that athleticism and length against the scorers who are torching Toronto on a regular basis.The Raptors finished dead last in defensive efficiency last season. As he enters his sophomore season DeRozan is well-aware of this opportunity, and the improvement in his game it will require on both ends of the floor.

"If I want to be more effective, I really have to slow down and not only use my athleticism all the time," DeRozan said. "I have to learn how to play different kinds of ways and I'm learning."

On Tuesday, we saw glimpses of DeRozan's learning curve and his expanding game. He scored 23 points, shooting 10-for-15 shooting from the floor. Although he unleashed some ferocious dunks, there was substance and nuance to go along with the aerial effects. DeRozan showed off a tighter handle against pressure, something that hampered his one-on-one game at times last season. That added confidence in his ballhandling allowed DeRozan to make better decisions off the dribble, whether it was spinning away from help defenders or finding a seam.

"Athletes last for [only] so long," DeRozan said. "Being young, I want to develop now so that I can go 50-50 with my game -- skills, then use my athleticism when I have to."

DeRozan still exhibited plenty of that raw athleticism, especially in tandem with Sonny Weems, his closest friend on the team. The two wingmen teamed up on consecutive alley-oops in the second quarter. The first jam came in the half court when Weems snuck behind the Houston defense on a dive to the hoop, where DeRozan found him with a lob. On the next possession -- a break in transition -- Weems returned the favor when DeRozan ran the baseline and met Weems' pass at the rim for the slam.

"That's what young guns do," DeRozan said. "When we came out, Sonny said he was going to go back door and I threw it to him. Then I knew when we were on the fast break together, I knew he was going to throw it up."

DeRozan's primary defensive assignment on Tuesday was staying with Chase Budinger (and occasionally Jermaine Taylor) in Houston's active three-man sets, closing out on the second-year sharpshooter and staying with him in transition. For the most part, DeRozan succeeded on all three accounts. He selectively provided help, but usually opted to stay glued to his man.

"I need to improve my defense, especially going at the 2 position, going against players like Kobe [Bryant], Ray Allen, those type of guys every night."

Evidence gathered at summer league has to be viewed with a jaundiced eye. As DeRozan himself suggests, there's simply no substitute for meaningful NBA games. Matt Janning and Chase Budinger aren't exactly comps for Bryant or Allen, but at least DeRozan acknowledges that the trajectory of his growth as a player will be central to the Raptors' fortunes.

To return to respectability, Toronto will need a superstar -- and there's only one candidate on their roster.
  • Yes, that was J.R. Smith out on the floor starting for the Nuggets. You can't find Smith on the published roster, nor on any of the box scores from the Nuggets' first three games here in Las Vegas. So what's he doing here? "I'm just working out," Smith said. "I'd rather play somewhere like this than a high school gym and get hurt." Smith is rehabbing his left ankle. "Of course it's not the NBA season, but it feels good to see some familiar faces and feels good to come out and play."
  • James Johnson's teammates spent a lot of time telling Chicago second-year forward where to set up offensively in the half court. When Johnson doesn't have the ball in his hands, he floats purposelessly around the floor. Should he work off the ball to elude his man? Should he go to the ball? Often, Johnson has no idea. On the positive side, Johnson has some impressive ball skills. He has the handle and agility to find seams to the basket -- and the strength to finish. Unfortunately, he doesn't display the desire or wherewithal to make a play when he encounters heavy traffic.
  • DeMarcus Cousins posted another strong showing. The numbers were solid -- 19 points and 12 rebounds -- but the breadth of Cousins' game was most impressive. Cousins displayed a lot of polish against the Lakers' squad. Whether he was delivering a nice pass against collapsing defenders to a diving Omri Casspi for a slam, or working Derrick Caracter off the dribble from the top of the arc (finishing with a soft hook off the glass), Cousins revealed finesse to accompany that power. He even drained a jumper from 20 feet and launched a smart outlet pass that led to a bucket on the break for Casspi. Above all, he's still showing signs of becoming a pick-and-roll force. On one possession, he set a high screen for point guard Donald Sloan, then made a beeline to the rim, flushing Sloan's missed shot for a putback. Even on Cousins' misses (he finished 8-for-20 from the field), he unveils a range of skill. There's a whole lot to be explored here.
  • If Dan Dickau can play NBA ball, then it seems to make sense that Matt Bouldin should. The big point guard out of Gonzaga can deliver a sharp pass, pressure the ball, fight through screens and make good decisions with the ball in late shot-clock situations. At 6-foot-5, he has NBA size at the position.
  • On a high ball screen, the man guarding the screener is charged with the responsibility of letting the man about to be screen know the pick is coming. In the opening possession of the Houston-Toronto game, the Raptors' Joey Dorsey failed to do that and got an earful from the Toronto coaching staff. In a sparsely filled arena on a Tuesday afternoon, that bark reverberated from the rafters. Suffice it to say that, for the rest of the game, you could hear "by yourself!" and "right! right! right!" every time Houston was in a ball-screen set.
  • Jonny Flynn interviews Wesley Johnson after Matthews' first summer league game.
  • Brian Kamenetzky talks to Lakers' point guard Ibrahim Jaaber.
  • Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on Othello Hunter: "Three weeks ago Atlanta Hawks Assistant General Manager Dave Pendergraft called Othello Hunter's season-and-a-half with the team as an experiment they didn't see through. Hunter appeared in just 23 games for 125 minutes with the Hawks. Despite having no immediate need for him, the Hawks assigned Hunter to the D-League for just 3 games during the 2008-09 season. After the Hawks released him in January, he finished the 2010 season in Greece, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes per game for Ilisiakos. His first stretch of regular playing time since his senior season at Ohio State may have given Hunter the confidence to again demonstrate his strengths on the glass and around the basket. Through four games with the undefeated Denver Nuggets summer league team, Hunter has again produced when given playing time, averaging 13 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes per game while making more than two-thirds of his field goal attempts."
  • D.J. Foster of ClipperBlog and ESPN Los Angeles on Patty Mills: "Most 6-foot point guards with diminutive frames would be weary of mixing it up, but Mills isn't your typical guard. Despite his stature, Mills is a scorer first and foremost who actually does some of his best work off the ball. One display of his aptitude without the rock came when Mills hurled himself at a Hornets defender almost twice his size, setting such a thick baseline screen that his own man had to scurry off to help. The suddenly wide-open Mills then floated to the perimeter for a clean 3, bringing his total on the evening to 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting. In Mills, the Blazers look to have another threat off the bench who can pack a punch offensively, whether he's the primary ball-handler or not. With players like Brandon Roy and Jerryd Bayless typically dominating the ball, Mills' abilities away from the play should prove valuable going forward.
  • Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball on Hasheem Thabeet: "As he often does, Thabeet showed his shot blocking ability, rejecting three shots, but he still looked unsure of himself on offense. 20 seconds into the game he caught a pass and brought it down to his chest, allowing a guard to sneak in to tie him up. Later in the game he grabbed a rebound and again brought the ball down low before watching it get slapped away by a much smaller player. While signs of progress are there, Thabeet was 6-9 from the free throw line and rotated well enough on defense that his coaches were very vocal in their praise from the bench more than once, Tuesday's game reinforced the idea that Thabeet is still very much a work in progress."
  • Joe Gerrity of Hornets247 on Quincy Pondexter: "The first-round pick continues to impress on the defensive end. He's active off the ball and has shown the capability to stay in front of his man, something the Hornets desperately needed last year on the perimeter. Under the tutelage of new coach Monty Williams the Hornets are expecting an immediate contribution from Pondexter. Offensively he's a quality finisher and capable of cutting to the hole or hitting a pull up jumper at an NBA level. Before too long he should be in contention with Julian Wright to receive substantial minutes in relief of the aging Peja Stojakovic."

Ramon Sessions Gets His Offer

September, 4, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

From Chris Sheridan:

The waiting and wondering is finally over for restricted free agent Ramon Sessions, who agreed Friday to sign a four-year, $16 million offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

A source told that the paperwork on the deal was being processed Friday morning. After Sessions signs, the Milwaukee Bucks will have seven days to match the offer, which they are not expected to do.Sessions' name had been linked with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers throughout the summer. But New York was unwilling to guarantee more than one year -- which would tie up the Knicks' coveted cap space for the summer of 2010 free-agent market. And Los Angeles made a trade last month with Minnesota to acquire Sebastian Telfair as the backup to Baron Davis.

In Minneapolis, Sessions would compete for minutes with rookie Jonny Flynn of Syracuse, the sixth pick of the draft who was elevated to No. 1 on the Wolves' point guard depth chart after efforts to acquire Ricky Rubio's rights from the Spanish club DKV Joventut failed earlier this week.

That put the Timberwolves in the position of scrambling to find another playmaker, and the 23-year-old Sessions was the best option on the free-agent market after he and his agent, James "Chubby" Wells, decided weeks ago to hold off on committing to the Knicks in the hope a new opportunity would arise.

Unclear, though, is how the addition of Sessions for at least the next three seasons would impact Rubio's status with Minnesota.

In some respects, this gives Minnesota an opportunity to see how two natural point guards operate in tandem. The Timberwolves have arguably the league's most impoverished backcourt. Their guard rotation currently consists of two rookies -- Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington -- as well as Chucky Atkins and Bobby Brown. Sessions would immediately become the Wolves' best guard and would likely be slotted alongside Flynn in the starting lineup, giving the team two expert ballhandlers in their first unit.

As Sheridan points out, Sessions will be under contract with the Wolves for three seasons, and possibly a fourth if he picks up his player option in 2012-13. Meanwhile, the franchise has a team option on Flynn for 2011-2012 for $3.4 million.

Is a Sessions signing a harbinger that Rubio is a lost cause for Minnesota, or could the Wolves feasibly go with a dynamic, three-guard rotation on opening night 2011 of Flynn, Sessions, and a 21-year-old Rubio, each averaging 32 minutes per game? 

Tuesday Bullets

August, 18, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Glen Taylor, Kurt Rambis, David Kahn

On my desk is the Minnesota Timberwolves' newest media guide. It's about ten months old, and still has that "freshly printed" smell.

But I'm about to throw it away. The Timberwolves have changed so much, and so quickly, that the book is almost worthless.

Thirteen of the players, a head coach or two, and the face and brain trust of the team through its first two decades -- Kevin McHale: All gone.

In their place: One of the most profound and rapid rebuilds the NBA has ever seen, highlighted by the frenetic activity of hardworking new president of basketball operations David Kahn. He has ushered in new young players like Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio, a new coach in Kurt Rambis, a small collection of returning players highlighted by Al Jefferson and Kevin Love ... and a thousand questions.

Rookies at point guard, rookies in the executive office, and (but for half a lockout season) a rookie head coach. It's a high-risk, shoot-for-the-moon, long-term approach, which is delightful for what it is not: More of the same.

"I have absolutely no desire," says Kahn, "to build a team that perennially wins 40 to 45 games and scratches and claws for the first round."

In other words, he has no desire to run, well, the Timberwolves.

It's a brand new day for professional basketball in the Twin Cities.

Ripping Right Down to the Studs

David Kahn objects to my saying that he has "ripped the team down to the studs."

"I mean," he retorts, "we kept Al Jefferson, we still have Kevin Love ..."

Only later did I think that I should have responded: "You don't think they're studs?"

Call it what you will, but it's certainly a historical bit of redirection. New head coach Kurt Rambis is the team's best-known quantity, but in his current post he boasts 37 games of experience, which took place a decade ago (on top of a more meaningful decade-and-a-half assisting in the front office and on the sidelines).

Upon arrival, Rambis talked a little bit about the team's assets, but more about changing the culture of the team. But how much culture could be left to change? The only Timberwolves who have been around for even just a year are Corey Brewer, Brian Cardinal, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.

"Amazing isn't it?" laughs Love. "One year, and I'm already one of the old guys."

"We are in the midst of re-building," says team president Chris Wright. "It is no secret that we are not going to be competing for an NBA championship this upcoming season. ... We are going to play our young players and allow them to grow and develop together on the court. Are we going to take some lumps along the way? Sure, we are. But, the only way our young core will continue to improve is to play together and experience first-hand all of the various situations within an NBA game."

Wright declined to offer insight into ticket sales this summer -- last season the Timberwolves famously offered some five-dollar tickets, which was seen as a strong sign of a weak economy -- but he says the media and blog buzz about the team has ratcheted up, while "there is a renewed excitement about Timberwolves basketball here in the Twin Cities."

No current Timberwolf has had time to enter the bloodstream of Minnesota fans the way Kevin Garnett once did. The player with the most minutes played in a Minnesota uniform is 26-year-old Gomes, who has played about 5,000 minutes since arriving in a trade for Garnett. Five thousand minutes is nothing to sneeze at, but, for instance, Kobe Bryant has played nearly 35,000 minutes for the Lakers.

Rambis singled out Jefferson, Love, Brewer, Rubio and Flynn as "nice pieces," to build around. But his decision to leave the Lakers also centered around the length of his contract, the upcoming draft picks and cap room, and promised input into personnel.

Basketball executives and coaches are relentlessly sunny, in public, about the prospects of their teams. Yet on the day he was hired, the coach was talking about long-term projects. Translation: This could take a while.

But there's more to life than one season's win total, and clearly the new management team has owner Glen Taylor's blessing to take some time in redefining the organization, which may well prove brilliant.

"The singular objective," says Kahn, "is to be a championship-contending team. I don't want to put a time frame on it, but it seems that three to four years is probably realistic."

Kahn spells out that this season will be an exploration of how the existing roster works. Next summer there will be several more new players to be added through the draft and free agency. "2010-2011 could be something of a laboratory, too," says Kahn. "There are so many things that can change, but with the path we're on, I think the third year is the first time we can really expect to make a playoff push."

Counting on Al Jefferson

Al Jefferson, the team's MVP and the star they received in the Garnett trade, flatly rejects that schedule, saying "It shouldn't be no three years."

Al Jefferson

While hardly bitter, Jefferson is not guzzling the kool-aid of rebuilding either. "I was a little disappointed about Kevin McHale leaving, and also a little disappointed about Sebastian Telfair leaving," he says. "But I understand it's a business, and I understand David Kahn is here to do a job and he's doing it. ... The team becomes part of your family. You get close to guys, and to see them go, it hurts. ... I miss the guys. But you move on, and it's a new beginning."

(Love is similarly cautious in sizing up the new direction, stopping well short of an endorsement: "All the changes ... We just got to sit back and see. Hopefully it will work in our favor.")

Jefferson also rejects the slow rebuild out of sheer confidence. "When you look at how quickly things turned around in Portland," he says, "when they got Brandon Roy and those young players ... it's up to us. We have some young players, but if we do what we're supposed to do we can make this happen faster."

Jefferson is the team's only unquestioned star, but even he comes wrapped in uncertainty. Not only is he recovering from a torn ACL, but he is forced to play long minutes as an undersized center. The team has a shortage of real 5s, and Love needs minutes at power forward. (The only real center on the roster is Ryan Hollins.)

Jefferson says his injury ought not be a concern. After ACL surgery last winter, he's still not cleared for contact, but is scheduled to see the doctor on August 24 and swears he'll be on the court and ready to play by training camp.

Jefferson says he has been "doing everything I was supposed to do, and not doing everything I wasn't supposed to do." To play center, he had bulked up to 285 or bigger last season. This summer, after seeing the team draft speedster point guards Rubio and Flynn, and knowing he'd be running more than ever, he resolved to get back to his rookie weight of 265 (he's at 270 right now).

How does one drop weight while taking it easy on a healing knee? "Easy," he says. "I didn't go home to Mississippi and eat all that fried food. I stayed in Minnesota."

Kahn and Rambis have insisted that the up-tempo style they plan to play can use
Jefferson on the secondary break, or when the team can't run. Jefferson, for his part, says he'll be like Amare Stoudemire, out there running and finishing on the primary break, and he's looking forward to it.

As for Jefferson and Love's coexistence, Rambis bats aside the concern that they can't play together: "Kevin Love and Al Jefferson can definitely play together. They're going to be the initiators of the break, and they're both very, very capable rebounders in this league. As Pat Riley talked about many years ago, no rebounds, no rings."

Both Love (third) and Jefferson (25th) are highly rated rebounders, and Jefferson had the 10th best PER in the NBA last season. His All-Star level of play, combined with a five-year career of playing for rebuilding teams, may make him one of the biggest victims of this latest and most profound organizational redirect.

Jefferson's impressed with Rambis, however: "The No. 1 thing that amazed me was how he left the Lakers. A championship team, probably was going to be the head coach in the next couple of years, who knows? To come here, and to help turn the Timberwolves around, that gained my respect. I just met him today. He already got my respect for that, because a lot of people don't want to come to Minnesota. I'm here and I want to be here, and I want do something this team has never done before, we're going to need all the main pieces to get us there. Bringing Coach here could be the beginning."

"The Spanish Kid"

Of the Timberwolves' many summer soap operas, the most closely watched one has been that of fifth overall pick Ricky Rubio (whom Jefferson referred to thrice as "the Spanish kid," and never as "Rubio," in one 10-minute interview). Some suggest the 18-year-old Spanish heartthrob has the potential to be the best point guard of his generation, and are shocked that he lasted to the fifth spot in the draft. Kahn himself expressed delight and surprise at finding Rubio available.

Ricky Rubio

And yet Rubio has yet to sign a Minnesota contract and it's unclear when he will.

Sources indicated his initial reticence at joining a team with Flynn, another highly touted young point guard. More recently, indications are that Rubio's entirely happy to join the Timberwolves, but buyout talks with DKV Joventut, his Spanish team, have not been smooth.

When Rubio was 15, he signed a contract that paid him very little for a professional basketball player -- an annual income of less than $100,000 for most of his time there -- but had a massive buyout clause of 5.7 million Euros, or about $8 million. It is believed to be the biggest buyout in Spanish basketball history.

It remains to be seen if Rubio's lawyers would push the issue, but recognizing that teenagers and their families are ripe for exploitation in negotiating with savvy teams -- it would take decades of work for him to afford the buyout -- Spanish law offers certain protections that may apply in Rubio's case.

Meanwhile, Rubio has long been clear that he intended to go to the NBA, and for a time Joventut made noises, publicly, about a willingness to negotiate should the NBA come calling. (The buyout, in a setting like that, would protect Joventut against richer European teams trying to steal Rubio.) As recently as this summer there was talk of negotiating a severely reduced buyout to help Rubio pursue his NBA dream.

But the more recent storylines in the Spanish press have featured a new uncompromising line from Joventut. Team president Jordi Villacampa recently said that relations had deteriorated and he implied that Rubio would not be welcome to return to play for the team. The Timberwolves are only allowed to contribute $500,000 towards his buyout, so Rubio would seem to have few options beyond haggling further, and deciding how much he can afford to pay out of the roughly $6.8 million he'll be guaranteed from his rookie contract, plus whatever he can get from sponsors.

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have been careful not to say anything about limiting Rubio's playing time or role, apparently wary of deflating his NBA aspirations.

"I have a gut feeling, right now, that Ricky would be the starter," says Rambis. "Flynn with his speed and and nastiness as a defender, I see him being a key player off the bench ... but it's not set in stone."

What Rambis says is unlikely, however, is Flynn and Rubio starting together.

Kahn had spun a yarn, since the draft, that Flynn and Rubio could play together, in the backcourt, at the same time, for the long term. "Right now I see them playing a little bit on the floor together, but that will be extremely difficult to do for long periods of time particularly in the Western Conference," says Rambis, "because of the quality of the point guards, as well as the quality 2 guards. Defensively, that'll be a tough matchup for either one of them."

Rambis adds, however, that training camp could prove him wrong. "We want them to get as much playing time and experience as possible. They're going to learn the most about the NBA by being out there on the floor. ... There will certainly be times when they will be playing together. They could certainly prove me wrong."

2010 Offseason: Even More Change

The Timberwolves will spend this season, essentially, getting to know each other.

But just when the dizziness wears off, there's every reason to think the roster-shifting will resume. Minnesota is poised for action in next summer's free agent market, and has the potential to have as many as three (or as few as zero) first-round picks:

  • Minnesota's own pick in 2010 is owed to the Clippers but is top-10 protected, meaning unless the Timberwolves play well enough to end up with the 11th pick or worse, they'll keep their pick. (Assuming they keep the 2010 pick, however, the 2011 pick is the Clippers' with no protections at all, which could prove painful.)
  • Charlotte's pick in 2010, which is protected if it's top 12.
  • Utah's pick in 2010, which stays with Utah if it's in the top 15.

"At a minimum," says Kahn, "I expect we'll be $10 or $12 million under the cap in the summer of 2010. If we have that cap space, and we can spend judiciously on a player who will help our team, we are absolutely ready to spend that money."

In deference to that cap space, Kahn says that he will not take on any more contracts that last beyond next summer, and is "pretty much done with major changes to the roster" beyond "some pruning and trimming."

"The biggest change that could be coming to our roster for this season is finding out whether or not we'll get Ricky Rubio this season," he says.

This is the kind of rebuild that many teams are too timid to attempt, and it's fun to see it in action. It'll take years, however, to know whether it's brilliant, insane, or somewhere in between.

For 'Wolves fans, everything is changing. One thing that won't change, however, is that around this time next summer, we'll probably still be talking about how it will take time to see what the Timberwolves will become, and
I'll probably once again be throwing out my Minnesota Timberwolves media guide before it's even a year old.

(Rambis photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images. Al Jefferson photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images. Rubio photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ryan Miller's Final Shot

July, 24, 2009

Ryan Miller is a recent graduate of Syracuse University, where he was a standout sportswriter. He's also done some solid work as a correspodent for ESPNU on fellow Oranges Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris. You probably know him best as the videographer at LeBron James' Skills Academy whose tape of "the dunk" was taken by a media relations rep at the event.

UPDATE: Nike has announced the company is finally returning the confiscated videos.

It's been a wild couple of weeks for Miller, who shares his final thoughts on the ordeal for TrueHoop

Had 30 Fox high-definition cameras captured Babe Ruth's "called shot" at-bat in the 1932 World Series or a Flip Cam recorded Rosie Ruiz jumping out of a crowd in the Boston Marathon, their legends would cease to challenge our imagination.

Jordan Crawford's dunk sparked the intrigue of sports fans because of the unknown.

Did a college kid who sat out last season really dunk on King James' crown? If Nike felt the need to confiscate tapes, it must've been a vicious slam, right?

The curiosity virally disseminated throughout the media. "LeBron James gets dunked on" was the eighth highest Google search on July 9 even though that might not be too telling because "big green egg" was No. 5. But the dunk would never have been a big deal if Nike didn't make it one.

A would-be 24 hour YouTube sensation had Nike not tried to keep the footage from getting out escalated into a public relations nightmare for the corporate giant, catapulting a solid but innocuous dunk into a legend that couldn't possibly live up reality.

Crawford would've had to go Vince Carter and leapfrog King James, Patrick Chewing and pulverize the backboard, or even WGN sports reporter with a slew of taunts that sent LeBron off the court in tears for the throwdown to live up to expectations.

Instead, some fans were disappointed with a run-of-the-mill dunk as LeBron helped late on defense, not a wind-mill so powerful James was knocked to the floor. Hopefully now everyone can move on from the LeBron James dunk controversy.

Fortunately for James, the media has already moved on. Unfortunately for James, they have moved on to hisadmitting to smoking marijuana in high school in a new book that chronicles his rise to stardom. 

As soon as TMZ and eBaumNation released the dunk footage, the emails came pouring in (which I'm thankful for because I'm terrified of my cell phone and texting bill this month): Do you know whose footage it is? Do you know how much the companies paid for it? Are you upset it a shot of the dunk was leaked?

There was obviously a strong desire by the public to see the dunk, and I was just happy for that to be fulfilled.

The Sporting News has discovered TMZ shelled out $3,000 for their shot and eBaumNation paid $5,000 for the crisper video.

In Nike's attempt to censor the dunk within credentialed media, the footage might have come from within the Nike camp. Excluding media, the only other people in the building were the athletes, coaches, camp staff and camp volunteers (many of which were University of Akron students). 

Ironically, it could have very well been someone from Nike's own camp that sold the tapes.

Personally, I wasn't upset over any potential financial loss, because had Nike not tried to cover-up the dunk, the tape would have had minimal value.

From a journalistic standpoint, I was clearly within my rights to film at the camp and was displeased Nike deemed it necessary and felt the entitlement to take personal property from credentialed media, then claim the pick-up game was an ?after-hours? event, even though it was during the regularly scheduled "College Workout #3" portion of the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Nike made a mistake, but its youth camps are helping the game of basketball grow across internationally, and I hope to still be admitted to Nike events in the future. Hopefully this incident will not discourage Nike or NBA players from being hands-on at these camps, because that's what makes them special.

Monday Bullets

July, 20, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The Las Vegas Summer League is a lot like the Sundance Film Festival of the NBA. Whereas the pageantry of most NBA games has gotten out of control, Summer League games are small indie productions. The event certainly has its share of fanfare, but it also allows participants to brush shoulders with some notables they wouldn't ordinarily have access to during the grind of the NBA season. Just as festival-goers at Sundance might find themselves sitting next to an A-List movie star in a cozy bar, it's not unusual for Summer League attendees to sit down in the stands at Cox Pavilion, only to look over and see a high-profile general manager in cargo shorts and flip-flops.

Since team executives, agents, player development personnel, and veterans who've come to watch their younger teammates are all convened in one place for 10 days, Summer League is one big, casual schmoozefest, and a great place to take inventory of the state of the NBA.

What were all those big names talking about in Las Vegas this year? Here were eight hot topics:

A Lot of Competent Players, but Only One Sure-Fire All-Star
Since early spring, the 2009 talent pool has been regarded as a one-man draft. By and large, NBA folks left Las Vegas with that consensus intact. Blake Griffin was the story of Summer League. Though he wasn't able to replicate his explosive 27-point debut, Griffin's 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game stood out. There were other players who matched his statistical output, but few generated the enthusiasm Griffin did among those who got a look at the full roster of rookies. "It's not only his work ethic and competitiveness," said one scout. "It's the balance, athleticism, body, and control. The stuff he can't do yet? It'll happen in no time." When asked how many certain All-Stars would materialize from the class of 2009, interviewees set the over-under barely above one, with Tyreke Evans earning a few votes. Despite the low expectations for stardom, many observers were pleasantly surprised by the depth of solid, if unexceptional, players. The prevailing opinion in Vegas was that the 2009 group is a far cry from the notoriously fruitless class of 2000. Though there was little unanimity, James Harden, Austin Daye, Wayne Ellington, Jonny Flynn, DeJuan Blair, and Earl Clark were all mentioned as possible contributors, or "third options" as one assistant general manager put it. But conversations about potential greatness consistently and almost exclusively returned to Griffin.
Anthony Randolph Anthony Randolph: All grown up?
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Anthony Randolph is Ridiculous
Summer League play always warrants a disclaimer, because the level of competition falls way short of what guys will confront in an NBA game, but the Warriors' 20-year-old forward seemed almost too advanced for Summer League play. Normally jaded execs and crusty sportswriters alike had their jaws agape watching Randolph command the game when he was out on the floor. Randolph came into the league as a candy dish of disparate talents, but he's graduated from curiosity to crackerjack. He has a band of admirers who gush over his range of talents, and that group got a lot bigger in Las Vegas, as his skill set was on full display. Randolph saw the court, ran the floor, passed the ball, blocked shots, got to the line, and drained mid-range jumpers as well as anyone in Summer League. In his four games, he averaged a Summer League-high 26.8 points per game on 60.9 percent shooting from the floor. He also got to the line 39 times and blocked 12 shots. But it was about more than the stats for Randolph. There's a moment when a player's talents unify into a single, coherent package. Judging from Randolph's performance, that moment has arrived.

The Global Economic Crisis
There's an area behind the near basket at Cox Pavilion where European coaches, general managers, and scouts sit and talk shop during the games. The NBA presents Summer League as a showcase of their future stars, but the real business in Las Vegas is being conducted by these guys, along with the agents and bridge-builders who are trying to get jobs overseas for the less recognizable names on Summer League rosters. Although there wasn't a visible black cloud hanging over this corner of the gym, the anxiety was palpable. They had a lot to be stressed about. Basketball clubs the world over are suffering, but none more than those in Europe. After years of escalating salaries and profits, the market has collapsed. "I've told all my European guys to expect, on average, salaries to go down between 30 and 40 percent," one European agent said. "It's definitely a buyer's market." This dynamic puts pressure on everyone -- the players who are facing a pay cut (even if they're coming off banner seasons), the agents who are terrified to communicate this to their clients out of fear of getting fired, and the teams who still haven't filled out their rosters because they're short on cash. The result is an impasse with neither players nor clubs budging, and a few teams on the verge of economic collapse.

Salary Cap Troubles & the NBA Financial Situation
The international game is in meltdown mode, while the NBA game is suffering from its own set of monetary issues. In Sections 104 and 115, where most of the NBA execs and team personnel sit, the dominant conversation of the week was about the financial pinch NBA franchises are feeling. In his press conference here in Vegas, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that fewer than half of NBA franchises made money last season. Ticket sales, sponsorships, and television contracts are all down. With the salary cap and luxury tax level dropping -- and scheduled to do so for the foreseeable future -- teams are having to calibrate their spreadsheets. This affects everyone: owners, general managers who are under pressure to build legitimate NBA rosters, free agents sitting on the sidelines, their agents, and also the journeymen and undrafted rookies trying to earn a spot on an NBA roster. To save money, a team that would normally carry 15 guys might trim that number down to 13 -- meaning fewer jobs. And players who would've inked rich, multi-year deals are finding that, with some exceptions, they have fewer suitors, with thinner wallets.

The Point Guard Class
Several point guards who came to Las Vegas made strong impressions. Jonny Flynn, despite all the turmoil surrounding Ricky Rubio, stood out. Though many in Vegas questioned the wisdom of playing Tyreke Evans at point guard long-term, few doubted that his strength, size, and capacity to get to the rim would make him a scoring machine. Observers had reserved praise for Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry, the former for his unrefined shot, the latter for looking more like a gunner than a floor general. Some of the mid-first-rounders earned a lot of praise. Dallas' Roddy Beaubois led Vegas point guards in oohs and aahs, zipping through the lane in traffic and filling it up from beyond the arc. Of all the point guards in Las Vegas last week, Darren Collison was among the most polished before going down with an ankle injury. After starting Summer League 1-for-15 from the field, Ty Lawson bounced back to turn in three dominant performances, averaging 23.7 points over that span. Lawson is the kind of point guard who needs to be surrounded by scorers to excel. He'll have that in Denver.

LO, AI, Booz, and the Blazer

As much as NBA fans love speculation about trades and free agency, nobody appreciates the rumor mill quite like the NBA chattering class. Talk of the disintegration of Lamar Odom's negotiations with the Lakers provided plenty of fodder for late-night dinners. The same was true of the l'affaire Allen Iverson, where Carlos Boozer may land, and what the Blazers will do with the money they threw at Paul Millsap. The Odom situation was far and away the most intriguing to the insiders. Odom and the Lakers are in the second act of a romantic comedy: They need each other. The Lakers would slip measurably without Odom, and Odom needs the Lakers to solidify his place among the Lakers greats -- or at least the Lakers very, very goods. The Iverson and Boozer matters exemplify the financial issues mentioned above. So far as Portland, few teams run as much informational interference, and even some of the wiliest insiders were stumped about what the Trail Blazers might do.

The Death of the Back-to-the-Basket Game
"Name one guy here who can hit a jump hook over their left shoulder," an NBA assistant general manager asked. "I can't think of one." Whether it's the trickle-down effect of the European game, the rule changes implemented by the league a few years ago, or college teams appropriating Mike D'Antoni-style basketball, the vast majority of the young bigs who were in Las Vegas are face-up players who work either along the perimeter or out of the pinch post: Anthony Randolph, Earl Clark, James Johnson, Taj Gibson, Dante Cunningham, DaJuan Summers, Austin Daye, and even Blake Griffin. Is this a momentary trend, or will the pendulum eventually swing back? "If I were a big man about to enter college, I would develop that back-to-the-basket game," the executive said. The implication: At some point, those skills will be at a premium, and that kid will be impossible to defend. Forward-looking teams are all about buying low and, right now, traditional post players are undervalued because they don't conform to the current climate of the NBA game.

Dysfunctional Organizational Structures Breed
Dysfunctional Franchises
What is going on with Minnesota? That was a popular topic of conversation among senior NBA people in Las Vegas. The team still has no coach. Though it had one of the Summer League's most prolific players in Flynn, there's no telling if the system he played in over the 10 days will be the one installed by a new coach -- whoever that might be. This makes the Summer League evaluation process a lot less useful. Who's in charge? CEO Rob Moor? General manager David Kahn? Will the new coach be fully empowered to do his job? Critics also looked at Memphis. How did the Grizzlies end up with Hasheem Thabeet? Because owner Michael Heisley reportedly made the call. The Clippers, too, generated buzz this week with the Iverson speculation. While owner Donald Sterling wants to make a splash with Iverson, Clippers management would like to target Ramon Sessions. These historically beleaguered franchises all have one thing in common: There's no clear hierarchy that allows basketball people to make basketball decisions. The best franchises have well-defined roles that emanate from the top. Owners allow their senior executives to do their job. Those executives give their head coaches full reign, and so forth. Look no further than the San Antonio Spurs.

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
  • Jonny Flynn is making his case for Summer League MVP. We tend to forget that college offenses don't run much pick-and-roll. With the help of Garrett Siler, his own personal Erick Dampier, Flynn is getting the kind of open space that makes him lethal. Saturday's Flynn line: 24 points (7-for-10 from the floor, 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, 4-for-4 from the stripe, 4 assists). He's the single most electric guard here in Vegas.
  • We were deprived of the Flynn-Darren Collison matchup beyond the first quarter-and-a-half, when the Hornets' guard went down with a sprained left ankle. Flynn and Collison traded buckets for the better part of 15 minutes, as we witnessed the best mano-a-mano of the week. Collison plays with a smart combination of patience and assertiveness. He wants to size up the floor before he commits, but then takes direct action once he has. Before Collison went down, he had 18 points on 11 possessions.
  • Roddy Beaubois Roddy Beaubois: Breaking the speed limit.
    (Jack Arent/NBA via Getty Images)
  • Go ahead and put Roddy Beaubois directly behind Flynn in the pure point guard Vegas hierarchy. Beaubois doesn't need a screen -- just a little spacing around him. He's fearless and will probably kill himself once he encounters NBA centers, but for Summer League, he's a delight. Saturday's Beaubois Line was very Flynnian: 23 points (9-for-12 from the field, 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, 5 assists).
  • The Bulls have a project in James Johnson. He's capable of moving the ball, looks like a competent defender, but I don't think he's realized what kind of offensive player he is, wants to be, or the Bulls want him to be. He's 12 for his last 43 shots from the field, though he's managed 24 free throw attempts over that span.
  • Washington deployed trap after trap against Blake Griffin whenever he touched the ball inside of 15 feet. With Eric Gordon sitting out, there was no one else on the floor for the Clippers who warranted any real attention. The Wizards' strategy was effective, as Griffin had his least efficient game of the week: 19 points on 21 possessions, 10 rebounds, four steals against five turnovers.
  • JaVale McGee should help Washington's frontcourt rotation a good deal this season. He's got so much agility on both ends, a soft touch, and actually knows how to backpedal against a speedy guard coming off a screen. He got the better of DeAndre Jordan tonight and, prototypically, the guys have similar profiles. McGee put up a gaudy line: 19 points (9-for-11 from the field), seven blocks and four rebounds.
  • Ty Lawson again took matters into his own hands. He went nuts in the first quarter against the D-League Select team with 15 points, and he was more shooter than slasher. Lawson drained five field goals in the period, three of them from long range. He finished with 21 points on 17 possessions.
  • Jerryd Bayless appears really happy to be playing big minutes -- even if it's only Summer League. He's pressing a little bit, but when he works a simple drive off a high screen, then kicks it to a shooter in the corner, he's successful. Unfortunately, more times than not, it's penetration in traffic, often followed by careless baseline passes.
  • Benjamin Golliver of Blazers Edge, here in Las Vegas, on Dante Cunningham: "He's been the most pleasant surprise in an otherwise dismal Summer League for Portland. Pitched by Kevin Pritchard as a Travis Outlaw clone, Cunningham has shown a more instinctive, aggressive nose for tracking down rebounds than Outlaw, but clearly doesn't yet have his shot-creating and shot-making abilities. Through three appearances in Vegas, Cunningham has shown that he's fully comfortable -- and quite effective -- shooting face-up jumpers from the elbows and the baseline, even with a hand in his face. He has found those sweet spots by staying in nearly constant motion during offensive sets and by creating space for himself during effective pick-and-pops with Jerryd Bayless. The question that followed Cunningham throughout the draft process still looms: does he have a position? His is the classic three/four tweener dilemma. On offense, his lack of 3-point range forces him to play 4 for the Blazers but his slight frame prevents him from being a true interior threat. On defense, a Blazers scout this week questioned whether he has the tools to guard multi-talented threes or the size to handle physical fours."
  • DeJuan Blair recorded his second double-double of the week. Gregg Popovich on what he's getting in Blair: "A rebounder and someone who has a high effort level all the time on the boards, and running the floor. He enjoys playing, which is probably his main gift."
  • James Harden would like to dunk on Shaquille O'Neal.
  • Spoke to the vendors at the NBA store here. They don't have any of the rookies' jerseys in stock. Bestsellers among the vets? Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • When Austin Daye was being sized up as a pro prospect, one of the first shortcomings mentioned by his naysayers was his lanky build. Watching him up close in Las Vegas, Daye seems wholly unintimidated by back-line defenders. He actually initiates contact off the dribble, and it rarely throws him off his drive. He's gotten to the line 16 times in the past two games. He also recorded a double-digit rebound total for the third consecutive game. 
  • DaJuan Summers has the proverbial nose for the ball. When Pistons point guard Sean Singletary drove baseline, Summers made a hard basket cut down the lane to collect the pass. When his man left him alone on the weak side, he crashed the offensive glass. That's how you get 15 shot attempts even though your team isn't running stuff for you. Summers hit only five of those 15 shots in his final Summer League game, but helped himself as much as anyone over the course of the past week.
  • Jonny Flynn Jonny Flynn didn't start ... but finished frequently.
    (Jack Arent/NBA via Getty Images)

  • After a silent first quarter against the Pistons, Cavs rookie Christian Eyenga got involved, did some nice work off the dribble against Daye, and worked hard defensively against the Pistons guards. Eyenga was the quickest guy on the floor when he was out there. The Cavs haven't been looking for him at all this week -- and he never calls for the ball -- so it's been hard to get a feel for the full range of his skills.
  • Jon Brockman is a hoss. Even though he looks like a tree trunk, he actually moves his feet well, has the makings of a good team defender, and did a nice job on a couple of Toney Douglas-Jordan Hill pick-and-rolls. There's no offensive game to speak of, but a good find by the Kings.
  • There's a good pick-and-pop player inside Jordan Hill, but it just hasn't materialized yet. Against the Kings, he demonstrated the mobility to work within Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's system and get himself shots. "He's got a lot of offensive talents," D'Antoni said. "He just has to get a little stronger and get his jump shot down to where he's confident with it." Hill went only 3-for-11 from the field.
  • Jonny Flynn didn't start on Friday, but he took sole ownership of the game when he checked in at the start of the second quarter. Time and again, Flynn would get a hard screen from one of his bigs (both Garrett Siler and Adam Parada did good work), then exploded through the middle into daylight, absorbing any and all contact. In the fourth quarter, Flynn unleashed the theatrics: a behind-the-back pass to Parada, a two-handed dish over his head backward to a waiting shooter, a kickout to the arc while he was airborne in traffic. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-11 from the floor, and a perfect 7-for-7 from the stripe.
  • In eight days, James Harden has yet to take a truly questionable shot. He's the most measured rookie in his class on the court. Even his turnovers are of the "... but it was a good idea" variety. 
  • James Johnson's game can be disjointed at times. It's not that he looks lost. It's just the opposite -- he's a small forward with too many choices. Johnson couldn't buy a shot Friday (2-for-11 from the field), but he made four or five beautiful plays for teammates -- including a pinpoint interior bounce pass in traffic between two defenders to find James Augustine for a layup. Johnson finished with seven assists. 
  • There's one team out here playing at maximum effort: The D-League Select. On the pro squads, everyone has an individual agenda. A contracted, first-round stud is out there for an entirely different reason than the journeyman trying to catch the attention of a European scout. The D-Leaguers, some of whom had offers to warm the bench of an NBA Summer League roster but opted for DLS -- as they're known in abbreviation -- are collective underdogs. 
  • David Thorpe on Ty Lawson: "When he has to be your best offensive player, he's going to look average. This is one of the reasons he didn't stand out in the pre-draft camp a year ago in Orlando. But give him four talented players around him, and he'll make that collective group better than most other point guards could -- especially if those players can run." Friday, Lawson was playing with Coby Karl, Sonny Weems, Ronald Dupree, and Cedric Simmons, so he stopped deferring. Lawson initiated the offense himself, keeping the ball off high screens to either drive or shoot. He poured in 26 points on 17 possessions. 
  • Word association with Blake Griffin
  • Zag Alert! Swingman Micah Downs carried Phoenix on Friday. He hit from distance, slashed from the wing, posted up his smaller defenders, racked up five steals, and was key in transition en route to 19 points on 12 possessions. 
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
  • One of my favorite matchups of the day was Darren Collison-George Hill. As David Thorpe pointed out in his twitter thread, Hill is a brutal guy for Collison to have to deal with on the first day of class. Hill was able to shoot over Collison, shake him off the dribble, and beat him in transition with his combination of handle and speed. But Collison put together a few nice sequences of his own, including one in the third quarter on a screen-and-roll with Earl Barron: Collison was able to penetrate off the screen, then lob a pretty floating pass to Barron, who slammed it home. In general, Collison marshaled the floor with confidence. The most notable feature of his halfcourt game as a point guard: Patience (hello, UCLA). He attacked only when he had an invitation, rarely forced a pass, and executed high-percentage feeds to the right guys on numerous occasions.  
  • DeJuan Blair: As advertised -- intuitive, beastly rebounder (10 in 23 minutes), goes up with force on the putback, great at drawing contact inside, but occasionally lacks a plan of attack in the post. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, and 5-for-6 from the strip in his very Millsapian effort. 
  • Jonny Flynn communicates to his team on every offensive possession. He choreographs, directs, goads, and encourages. When teammates need to move from the weak to the strong side for an entry pass, Flynn barks out an order -- and he's almost always right. Flynn coughed the ball up seven times on Sunday against seven assists, but his management skills are there.
  • Is two Summer League sessions one too many? The Thunder, the only team playing in both Summer Leagues, just came off five games in five days in Orlando, with most of their primary names logging big minutes. The team looked exhausted Sunday in its 86-57 loss to Memphis. The Thunder recorded 22 turnovers, but only 20 field goals. 
  • Marcus Williams managed the game perfectly for the Grizzlies. He worked the ball to the right guys at the right spots, picking up 17 assists in 28 minutes. It helps when Sam Young is nailing jumpers and Darrell Arthur is finishing with authority, but Williams simply controlled the game. "He did a great job getting into the paint," Memphis assistant Dave Joerger said. "We ran different pick-and-roll looks and he picked the defense apart." Williams is a frustrating player to figure out. His pure point skills are apparent almost every time he takes the floor. His court vision is otherworldly. But as selective as he is as a playmaker getting other guys nice looks, he takes a lot of iffy shots himself -- to say nothing of his defense, where he doesn't seem to care all that much.
  • If you're the Grizzlies, Hasheem Thabeet's debut was encouraging. The Grizzlies haven't had a banger like Thabeet beneath the basket ... ever, really. He intimidated Serge Ibaka and anyone else on the Thunder who stepped foot into the paint. Will Thabeet be able to have that effect against a legitimate, veteran NBA center? If the answer is yes, Memphis will be an improved defensive squad in 2009-10, if nothing else. 
  • Brandon Jennings has some good instincts, but sometimes he misreads the game. A perfect example came in the second quarter against the Cavs. He drew big man Jawad Williams on the switch out on the perimeter. With the floor spread, Jennings had the opportunity to use his quicks to blow by Williams. What does he do instead? A cutesy crossover, then a step-back jumper from beyond 20 feet that wasn't close.
  • Fast forward to the second half, when Jennings came out of the locker room (it's really just a curtained-off alcove in the far corner of the gym) and hit three consecutive long-distance shots. His stroke still lacked a follow-through and his balance was tipsy, but the shots fell through. David Thorpe: "The guys with good form shooting the ball, but don't have great numbers? They worry me. The guys who don't look good shooting the ball like Jennings and Ricky Rubio, but somehow find a way to make shots? Those guys will learn to shoot better. They already have the talent to hit shots now -- even with bad form. As you clean up their form, they'll put up better and better numbers." Jennings scored 23 points and dished out eight assists against only three turnovers in the Bucks' win over the Cavaliers. He went 4-for-8 beyond the arc, and worked his way to the line for six attempts -- all of it a big improvement over his first game. 

Jonny Flynn, Circa 2006

June, 24, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Reporter Nate Beutel composed an outstanding three-part series on Flynn for the Niagara Gazette in December 2006, just before the start of Flynn's senior season of high school ball. We caught up with Beutel this week and asked him to introduce the series.

Beutel generously obliged:

Jonny FlynnJonny Flynn: "He's that damn good."
(Joe Robbins via Getty Images)

Niagara Falls likes to consider itself the "Honeymoon Capital of the World." For this Cataract City scribe, the years spent watching Jonny Flynn craft his game on the hardwood of Niagara Falls High School's Wolvearena was like a honeymoon in my own backyard.

The Falls has always been a hotbed for basketball, but Flynn took it to new heights. He helped NFHS to a state title and national prominence, earned all-American status, signed a full scholarship to Syracuse and even laced 'em up for Team USA's under-19 World Championship squad. He also had an all-American home, something rare in today's society.

Prior to Flynn's senior season at NFHS, I sat down with the area icon to discuss everything from diapers to Jordans. After two successful seasons at SU, Flynn will begin to write the next chapter of his life Thursday when he's selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. 

Part One of the series highlights Flynn's biography, which included growing up in a rough neighborhood in Niagara Falls: 

With crime, violence, drugs, and gangs, Garden Avenue is a difficult place to raise a family, and an even more difficult place to be a little kid.

But for budding Niagara Falls High School basketball star Jonny Flynn, it's been home for the past 18 years.

And he's proud of it. That's where the memories, experiences and process began for the Syracuse-bound star.

"You see Highland Avenue, right up there,” Flynn said from the living room. "You could ride down there at night and just see a lot of people that didn't make the best out of their lives.”

You'll never catch Flynn anywhere near those demons, because of the strong messages his family instilled in him.

"My parents and my family have always said you don't want to grow up like them,” he said. "You want to make it out of Niagara Falls and give back to the community. My parents steered me in the right direction and told me things to watch for.”

Flynn's father, William, happens to also be a minister at Higher Ground Christian Center in the city. And Flynn's mother, Deidre, has been the one that he's reached out to when in need of advice - or simply some baby love.

That being said, it was the lessons the Flynns taught their son throughout the years that have helped keep him grounded when success came calling, and with potential.

... Flynn, who carries a 90-plus average in school, is rarely in a down mood. And even if he is, you usually can't even tell.

"That why I always have a smile on my face, because even if you aren't really having fun, you have to make people think you're having fun,” he said.

His mother noted that the fun they've shared over the years as a family has probably rubbed of.

"We like to have fun and enjoy ourselves,” she said. "You should only be sad or angry for a moment in your life. Life is too short, so you should always try to smile.”

And Flynn, who is described as being kind, fun loving and gentleman-like by students and staff at Niagara Falls High School says he won't forget the lessons he's learned from family, friends, teachers and coaches throughout the years.

"Basketball is going to be there for a while, but after basketball what are people going to remember you as?,” he said. "I want to be known as Jonny Flynn, the good basketball player, and great person, who was courteous and generous to everyone.”

And in his father's eyes that's a perfectly clear vision that he shares as well.

"I see Jonny as a man that will believe in community and will help his fellow man no matter what,” he said.

Part Two of the 2006 series focuses on Flynn's prolific career at Niagara Falls High School, where he earned an unprecedented level of trust from his coaches and teammates: 

Legendary hoops coach Al "Doc” Massotti always had a philosophy that freshmen shouldn't be on the varsity, let alone play on the varsity.

But after watching a short, scrawny ninth-grader named a few years back, the late Niagara Falls High School assistant, could do nothing but shake his head and say: "He's that damn good.”

... As a sixth grader at Gaskill Middle School, Flynn longed to have the chance to play modified ball with his cousins Eric Flynn and James Starks. But that wasn't going to happen because only seventh and eighth graders were allowed on the modified teams.

So what did Flynn do?

He bypassed modified a year later as a seventh grader and moved right up to the junior varsity.

Observers weren't overly bullish on Niagara Falls' chances to win a state championship, something that gnawed at Flynn's competitive instincts:

With all that talent, Flynn is baffled at some prognosticators and their thoughts that the Falls may not make it past Buffalo State this season. To that extent, he believes this team has a great chance at not only making the state tournament, but winning it, just as they did in 2005.

"I don't see how people can say we aren't going to make it out Section VI,” he said. "I see that as a slap in our face. To be honest, I think we should make it to states very easily this year.”

And while Flynn still plans on scoring nearly 30 points per game, he's even more focused on helping his teammates develop into better players.

"This is my full role (to be the team leader) this year," he said. "I'm the only one from this team that won a state championship and I know what it takes to get back.

"I want to teach the young guys, get them better, get them scholarships to college. We want to win states and when you win, that's when you get recognized. We have to keep winning so everyone can get noticed and we can all be successful.”

Niagara Falls didn't win the title in 2007, but Flynn had a standout senior season. He had already committed to Syracuse, and part three of Beutel's series offers a glimpse of how Flynn's future looked from a 2006 vantage point: 

Flynn has always dreamed of lacing his high tops up and slipping on a New York Knicks jersey at Madison Square Garden.

But could that dream actually come to fruition some day?

"We think so,&r
dquo; Meyer said. "We have him rated as a five-star recruit because we think he could play at that level.”

... And while it's undoubted that Flynn has the skills to play professional basketball, his size (6-foot) is always a question mark for pro scouts.

But if you listen to Meyer, he's not buying it.

"Combine his great athleticism and his shot and he can definitely overcome his height disadvantage,” he said. "I'm not saying it'll be easy to overcome his height, but he has the attributes that a needs to do so.

"And plus Jonny has a lot of heart and thrives in those kind of circumstances.”

... Admittedly when it comes time to hang 'em up, whenever that may be, Flynn is still unsure of what he'll be doing.

He's leaning toward studying communications at Syracuse, which has produced the likes of MSG's Marv Albert, ESPN's Mike Tirico and NBC's Bob Costas.

"I've never really thought about it,” he said. "I like talking, so broadcasting or analyzing, maybe. I'll probably stay around basketball, though.”

That being said, typical of Flynn, he ended his thoughts with his ultimate goal in life.

"I just want to be known as a great person,” he said. "Being a good person outside of basketball is more important than anything in the world to me.”