Archives For Jonny Flynn

photo from sportsblink

This is one of those times I wish we were the Knicks. Not for their world renowned Garden, rabidly entitled fan base or sensationalistic coverage, but for Clyde Frazier. Only his effortless effervescence could adequately capture the highs and lows of the Wolves recent play. Not that I’m unappreciative of our man Jim Petersen, who does a swell job in his stead, but Jim specializes in good ‘ol fashioned straight talk. We need a man like that. However, there’s also times we need to just chill and no one does chill like Clyde.

Luke Ridnour is far from a swirling dervish. There’s no wheeling and dealing, nor will his ubiquity leave anyone reeling.  In fact, he’s perfectly average in every way. But he may be the most important player on this team. He doesn’t inhale rebounds like Kevin Love or have Beasleyesque scoring binges, however he’s the only Wolf who can provide some semblance of order amidst the chaos that is our offense. Occasionally I’ll check out the visiting locker room for a peek at the game plan on their whiteboard. Oftentimes, I can’t make much sense of the diagrams or terminology, but tonight I had no such problems. Numero uno, in bright red ink was “1st option=Dead”.

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photo by shiftedreality

Well this game was just a hot mess. On display here were two bad basketball teams playing some unintuitive, unlovely, awfully bad basketball. The Wolves missed more than a third of their free throws. They turned the ball over in crucial situations. Their first half was a listless fiasco. I’ll allow Kurt Rambis to continue: “their bench killed us, our defense was sub-par tonight and our effort was…nonexistent for the vast majority of the ballgame.” All true.

And yet, thanks to the fact that the Bobcast are a decimated wreck of a club, the Wolves by all rights should still have won this game. The entirety of the third quarter was a 30-14 Wolves run. They were up by eight points with just under three minutes remaining and up five points at the 1:48 mark. How did this come to such a depressing end? Well, that’s actually a hard question to answer. There’s no focal point of blame for this game; things went wrong in diffuse, ever-shifting waves. Let me try to catch a few:

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Another game slips through the hands – or paws – of our mighty Wolves.

But it allows me to get into the topic of plus/minus, which is sort of fascinating to me. Whenever someone asks me what I think of the plus/minus stat, I always answer that it’s just as useful as points per game in evaluating players. The guinea pig for that comparison is last year’s Monta Ellis. 2009-10 Monta Ellis scored a career-high 25.5 points per game, and yet was a complete albatross on the court for the Warriors.

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There’s been another entry into the Wolves revolving door of injuries. As Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn make their way back from the mend, down goes Tolliver.

Our friend Ray Richardson from the Star Tribune breaks the bad news.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver will miss the next 6-8 weeks to recover from a knee injury he suffered in Friday night’s game at San Antonio.

Tolliver, signed by the Timberwolves as a free agent in August, had an MRI on Sunday that revealed a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. A Timberwolves spokesperson said the 6-foot-8 Tolliver will not require surgery.

As much as we’ll miss Tolliver’s stellar help defense-and we undoubtedly will-I’m still looking forward to more of this smiling mug on the front line.

As has been long-rumored, Jonny Flynn will put in a rehab stint with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Flynn will most likely play in both games of the Skyforce’s weekend back-to-back against the Reno Bighorns and the Iowa Energy. Both of those names are amazing.

Here is Flynn’s response, according to Jerry Zgoda at the Star-Tribune: “I had to go back. I couldn’t miss that Sioux Falls trip. I got to go back.” Boy, coming from anyone but the preternaturally cheerful, entirely sincere Jonny Flynn that sure would sound like sarcasm.

Zgoda also says that “if all goes well, he could play his first NBA game next week.” Things really are going to look different when that happens, aren’t they?

Photo by Nottie Cabirian

According to the Timberwolves, Jonny Flynn had successful hip surgery on Tuesday morning. Here’s the press release in its entirety, you lucky people:

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jonny Flynn underwent successful surgery this morning for a labral tear repair and removal of extra bone to his left hip. The procedure was performed by Dr. Marc Philippon of The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. The typical recovery time for this type of injury is three to four months. “We expect Jonny to make a full recovery from this procedure,” said David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. “In the meantime, Dr. Philippon and our medical staff will work together to provide Jonny all the resources necessary to make his recovery as speedy as possible.” In his 81 appearances during the 2009-10 NBA season, Flynn averaged 13.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.

Uh oh. Looks like Jonny Flynn and my grandma have something in common – a bad hip.

So Jonny is going to be sidelined for quite some time. If the early prognosis from Dr. Spears and his sources is correct then a surgery next week and a three to four-month recovery time would have Flynn missing the first month of the NBA season and maybe more.

While this bodes well for the playing time of newly signed Luke Ridnour, it puts a big question mark at the backup point guard position for the Wolves.

The question isn’t who will pick up the backup point guard position. That will go to the newly reacquired Sebastian Telfair.

I’m more curious about what Bassy can bring back to this team after having a very underwhelming six seasons to start his NBA career. The curious thing about Telfair is he’s only 25 years old. If some Wolves fans are going to give Darko a pass all day because he’s still just 25 years old, I guess we have to give the benefit of the doubt to the kid from Coney Island who is just 11 days older than the Serbian Gangster.

When Bassy was repping ‘Sota, he actually wasn’t all that bad. He had his two best seasons of his career (assuming we don’t consider his four games with the Cavs last year as a complete entity… sorry, John Krolik) at the Target Center when he started the majority of the games he played as a Wolf and distributed the ball very well. The problem with Bassy is the lightning quickness with the ball that made him a YouTube and mixtape sensation doesn’t really work in the NBA. Watch this video:

Fun, right?

Well how many times do you see listless defense with players in the wrong spot and not reacting properly to ball movement in the NBA? I mean other than what the Wolves did last season.

That’s the problem with Sebastian Telfair. He’s great against mediocre competition. Put him in the league with guys that are as quick as him (or quick enough to use their size advantage to neutralize his first step) and he’s all of a sudden at a big disadvantage. The way you can change this and open up the floor for him is by putting Bassy in an up-tempo system that allows him to get into big spaces and get creative with the basketball.

Telfair has never really played for a fast team before. The fastest paced team he’s ever really played for was the ’06-’07 Boston Celtics. That tanking Celtics team was 12th in the league in pace at 92 possessions per game (last year’s Clippers team averaged 92.6 possessions per game but he never really got consistent minutes with them). Last year’s Wolves were third in the NBA in pace with a staggering 96.1 possessions per. That’s something that should be somewhat alluring for this current situation.

The Wolves aren’t going to need his services consistently for the majority of the season if Flynn can come back healthy. They just need him to be a steady hand that creates for his teammates during the initial months of the regular season. They need him to back up Ridnour (there’s something I never thought I’d say about this team) for roughly 20-25 minutes per game and not screw things up worse than they already are.

Yes, it would be nice to have Ramon Sessions as the backup to Luke Ridnour to start the season but that trade to send him and Hollins packing for Telfair and 1/9 of Delonte West’s unguaranteed contract was something that needed to get done. Instead, the Wolves get to be a little thinner in the backcourt to start the season but set up better for the future.

For now let’s start making Get Well Soon cards for Jonny Flynn and hope his hip heals better than my grandma’s did.

March 14, 2010: Ramon Sessions of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game between the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves at Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA. Ben Munn/CSM.

A lot of people are not going to believe this but David Kahn did something I like.

Meat And Potatoes Of The Trade

T’Wolves trade Ramon Sessions (3 years, $12.7m), Ryan Hollins (2 years, $4.8 m) and a future second round pick.
Cavaliers trade Sebastian Telfair (1 year, $2.7m) and Delonte West (1 year, $4.5m)

Ryan Hollins and Ramon Sessions both have player options for the final years of their contracts while Delonte West’s contract is only guaranteed for $500,000 if he’s waived by August 5th. According to Yahoo! Sports, the Wolves will waive Delonte West and save themselves the $4 million this year.

So what does this mean for Minnesota?

When Luke Ridnour signed with the Wolves for the exact same contract Ramon Sessions autographed last summer, the writing was on the wall that Sessions would be moved to a new team. I never understood the Sessions signing last summer. I had no problem with him joining the Wolves. But considering Minnesota had just drafted Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn, signing another point guard for four years just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Fast forward a year and they’ve signed another point guard to a four-year contract that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me if they have the intention of having Rubio and Flynn running the point for the future of this franchise. Luke Ridnour is the newest floor general signed by David Kahn in what has been a running joke of him trying to acquire all of the point guards in the league. But for once, the running joke against Kahn is a little unfair.

Ridnour is possibly a better point guard than Ramon Sessions in the traditional sense. Sessions is a fantasy basketball legend. He does a nice job of distributing the ball at a high level in the final weeks of the season when the effort is gone in meaningless games. That’s not to belittle what Sessions can do on a basketball court. He is a willing passer and that’s something that can be overlooked in today’s NBA. He doesn’t take a lot of bad shots and rarely will hijack a possession.

But Ramon Sessions was such a liability on defense last year that it’s hard to truly know if he could fit in with this team. Ramon was bad at closing out on shooters and defending guys when isolated. He didn’t fight through screens well or make sure to rotate properly in help. He also doesn’t have great vision for a point guard despite being good at racking up assists. He can miss the obvious play far too much for my liking and with a pass-first point, that’s sort of a problem.

Instead, the Wolves bring in a more veteran and steady presence with Ridnour while bolstering the depth with this trade. Ridnour will be better in the triangle system with a whole lot of tempo than Sessions could have been and a lot of that has to do with his three-point shooting. It’s hard to believe a career 34.7% shooter (career-high 38.1% last season) from long range can be a huge upgrade. However, Ridnour does make the defense have to account for him on the perimeter. Sessions and his 10 career three-point makes do accomplish that whatsoever.

With West already gone, it’s essentially a swap of Sessions and Hollins for Sebastian Telfair. Is this a little one-sided? Absolutely. But is this trade good for the franchise? I believe it is.

A team in the process of rebuilding doesn’t need four potential point guards. Let’s play Make Believe and trick ourselves into thinking Rubio will willingly come to this franchise in the 2011-12 season. Then you’ve got Rubio signed for four years, Flynn signed to two more years (assuming the Wolves pick up his two team options), Sessions signed for two more years (assuming he picks up his player option) and Luke Ridnour to three more seasons. That is way too much salary and time wrapped up into the same one-dimensional position.

Cutting bait with Sessions before the contract became an albatross was the way to go. And at the same time, they got rid of a horrible big man option by jettisoning Ryan Hollins. Hollins was another big man in this league that owed a big portion of his contract to Jason Kidd. He played with Kidd in Dallas for a portion of the ’08-’09 season and he looked much better than he actually is because of it. He wasn’t given a ridiculous three-year contract like Mikki Moore got with the Kings a couple of years ago after playing with Kidd but he still got a three-year contract that didn’t make any sense.

But now? The Wolves no longer have to worry about that.

They’ve been able to rid themselves of two contracts that don’t fit and don’t make sense. This is a key when rebuilding with some sense of fiscal responsibility. Being able to get rid of superfluous and unnecessary contracts before they become a burden is huge. It allows contracts like Darko’s signing and Luke Ridnour’s signing to be much easier to digest as a bitter fan base.

The Wolves have carved out even more cap space without sacrificing legitimate building blocks to do so. Even though I’m a firm believer that Kahn should be criticized for the majority of the decisions he’s made in his 14 months on the job, for once he’s making a move that makes short and long-term sense.

War and Rumors of War

Benjamin Polk —  June 22, 2010 — 2 Comments

Photo by Washuugenius

We here at A Wolf Among Wolves are not terribly into the rumors and the speculation. After all, by Friday morning we’ll all know who the Wolves drafted, who they traded and just maybe what it all means. At that point all of the pre-draft innuendo won’t much matter. Nonetheless, its obvious that the big red phone at Target Center has seen a lot of action lately. Our own Zach Harper recently spoke with Rahat Huq of Red 94, about Detroit’s and Houston’s interest in the fourth pick, Indiana’s inquiries about Jonny Flynn, and what it might all mean for the Pups. You really should read the whole thing. Here’s some fine insight:

“My first thought for every move the Wolves are rumored to be considering or proposing to other teams is always trying to figure out how this impacts getting Ricky Rubio to the Twin Cities. With the idea of trading Jonny Flynn for anything, you have to think it’s motivation for clearing depth at a position Rubio plays. To get him over here and in a Wolves uniform, you have to convince him that the job is his and it’s a lucrative and likely-to-succeed situation for him”

On that note, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press reports that Wolves’ GM David Kahn had this to say about the possibility of moving the fourth pick: “Highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely.” That does not sound likely to me.

Walters continues:

“As for the possibility of trading rights to Spanish guard Ricky Rubio, who was the Wolves’ top draft pick (No. 5 overall) a year ago, Kahn reiterated, ‘I don’t anticipate trading him. I feel very strongly that Ricky Rubio should start his career with us here in a Minnesota Timberwolves uniform, and I look forward to that day a year from now.'”

Oh but here’s a fly in the ointment. This from Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, writing at SI.com (via our friend SG at Canis Hoopus, so many links!):

“Rubio will not be inclined to terminate his contract with Barcelona next summer if there’s no new collective bargaining agreement by then. Also, if Rubio waits until 2012 — three years removed from his draft year — he’ll no longer be bound by the rules of the NBA rookie scale, which, under the current CBA, would pay him an average of about $3.6 million his first two years, a sum that will likely be below market value. Freed from the rookie scale, Rubio could negotiate like a free agent with the team that holds his rights, receiving anything from the mid-level exception ($5.85 million this season) to a maximum contract if a team has the requisite room under the salary cap.”

Those are two really excellent points and also total bummers. So much is going to happen. Let’s be paying attention.

Photo by theyoungDylanwaitsinthecave

If you’re reading this, you probably already know: for Timberwolves fans, last year was a crusher. You may remember the brief moments of first quarter hope, when the Wolves would manage to resemble a competent, competitive NBA team. Or maybe that hope would sprout late in a game, when the Wolves, trailing by some unholy number, would miraculously discover the zeal and cohesion to cobble together a comeback. But you probably remember even more clearly that hope’s sickening fizzle: those murderous second quarters, in which the Wolves’ opponent would throw down endless, effortless runs, would cause our boys to unravel and hang their heads. Or, just following the great comeback, the total loss of composure–the ridiculous turnover, the blown rebound, the defensive bungle, the dribbled-out shot-clock–that would sign the game away.

You might also recall the team’s grievous lack of leadership, in both basketball and spiritual senses. You probably remember their wayward, turnover-prone rookie point guard and their physically hampered, intermittently energetic putative star. You might remember their awful, awful defense and their lack of both size and athleticism. Tepid three-point shooting, careless possessions, thousand-yard stares; we had it all.

But despite everything, all that despair did enfold a seed of legitimate hope.  This was: Kurt Rambis’s philosophy of open-floor offense, coupled with the famous half-court Triangle. Given enough time and practice, we imagined,  the Wolves could be as exhilaratingly fast as D’Antoni-era Phoenix, could hum like the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. Yes, there were individual players who, from time to time, made things seem a little sunnier: Corey Brewer with his wild energy and new-found jumper; Kevin Love’s (usually) feverish rebounding; Big Al’s bursts of low-post scoring. But the real magic seemed to lie in the hope that the Wolves would one day “get it” and achieve an almost utopian dream: spiritually attuned ball-movement; perfectly balanced scoring; the dissolving of the boundary between individual and group consciousness.

In the Triangle’s web of reads, reactions and improvisations lies an acknowledgement of openness and possibility, and a promise of the freedom to simply play basketball. This freedom is probably only possible at the game’s highest levels; and its one that most coaches–a hyper-controlling, structure-loving bunch if there ever was one–would never dream of allowing their players.

But the irony is that, on the path to this ideal, the Triangle imposes a discipline nearly as constraining as the most tightly structured Big Ten system. Players are asked to re-orient the instincts that most of them, as the most athletic, wildly talented players in the country, have relied upon their entire lives. They’re asked to make decisions and sacrifices that they’ve never before been asked to make, to follow a set of guidelines that seem foreign and unintuitive. And so the story of this past Timberwolves’ season was not about the Triangle’s freedom and beauty. Instead, it was about the Wolves’ most talented players–Al Jefferson and Jonny Flynn in particular, but also Kevin Love and Ramon Sessions–struggling, and usually failing, to adapt themselves to these constraints.

In many ways, Rambis’s offense has actually made Flynn’s and Jefferson’s weaknesses more stark. Apart from his radiant smile and charisma, Flynn’s greatest obvious gifts are his one-on-one skills. His responsibilities in college were limited to, in his words, “making plays,” running isolations and pick-and-rolls. The added responsibility of organizing the Triangle has exposed his poor decision making and shot selection (although he hasn’t exactly flourished in pick-and-roll and one-on-one situations either…).

Photo by Peterc8800

As for Jefferson, his struggles this past year with his healing knee, and with various personal issues were well-documented.  Perhaps most important for his future with the Timberwolves, however, was his struggle to adapt his game to Rambis’s expectations. Al has never been an exceptional passer, but the demands of the Triangle–the constant reads, the need to work quickly, to move the ball along the path of least resistance–left him looking lost whenever one-on-one opportunities were unavailable. He simply never looked as comfortable at the triangle’s apex as does, say, Pau Gasol, whose decisiveness and vision allow the Lakers to threaten defenses from all points on the floor when he has the ball. But that’s not the worst of it. Here’s what I wrote about Big Al back in April, over at our fine City Pages (yes I am quoting myself, yes it feels weird):

“Al is known as one of the league’s few remaining classic back-to-the-basket scorers, owner of sublime low-post skills. If his defense is erratic, if his passing leaves something to be desired, the thinking goes, he makes up for it in sheer scoring prowess. But here’s the thing: for a big guy, Al is actually not that efficient a scorer. He tends to use his skills to avoid, rather than draw, contact. And he settles far too often for jumpers, which he hits at only a 39% clip.

Even in ’08-’09, before his knee injury, his true-shooting percentage was just 53.2%. Among centers and power-forward who used at least 20% of their team’s possessions (Al’s own usage rate was 28.9%), a full 14 players scored more efficiently. This includes obvious players like Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, but also folks like Kevin Garnett and Andrea Bargnani, who play mainly from the outside in (Kevin Love and, adding insult to injury, Craig Smith also clocked in above Big Al).”

Which raises the question: how viable is Jefferson as the star (or even as a member) of this team? Can he, at this stage of his career, not just improve his efficiency at his supposed greatest strength, but also reconfigure his entire approach to the game in order to mesh with an up-tempo, ball-sharing offense (his erratic defense is another troubling matter)?  These questions pain me; watching Al operate has been the chief pleasure I’ve taken in the nearly 200 Wolves games I’ve watched in the past three years. But there’s a very real possibility that, for all of these reasons, Al has already played his last game as a Wolf.

Like all utopias, this one is tempered and complicated by the facts on the ground. The lovely thought that one day these players will somehow perfectly actualize this system and enter into some yearlong trance of freedom is a delusion. It doesn’t happen like that, not even for the Lakers. And if you thought it was just a matter of youth and inexperience, you were wrong; just glance over at those dynamic OKC Thunder, a team even younger than our Wolves. The unpleasant reality is that, at this moment, the Timberwolves’ players are simply not good enough. Their best players are not as good as other teams’ best players. Their young, developing players still have years of improvement ahead of them. Their worst players are not fit for the league.

Our great hope must be that last season was Year Zero, that we are at least a decade from yet another resetting of history. For this to be the case, Rambis and David Kahn have some serious work to do in the coming weeks and months. Multiple draft picks and ample salary-cap room present the Wolves, at this moment, with as great an opportunity to improve as they will probably ever have. If they fail to seize it, Rambis’s ambitious experiment probably amount to little more than an historical afterthought, and we’ll never get to see even a fraction of what’s possible.