Jonny Flynn Wants Back In
The quick destruction and slow rehabilitation of a forgotten lottery pick
By Jonathan Abrams on August 14, 2013
Tyronn Lue needed a sub. Someone to fill the garbage time. So the Clippers assistant coach, overseeing the team's summer league squad, summoned Jonny Flynn from the deepest end of the bench and into a game against Atlanta. Flynn played the final minute, his only action, and scored a basket. The former Syracuse star had little in common with his teammates or any other players in Las Vegas that July day. He has looked Chris Paul in the eyes at half court, battled Deron Williams in the post, and stuck it to Rajon Rondo. Most famously, Flynn, a point guard, was drafted one spot ahead of Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA draft, by a floundering franchise that had just picked Ricky Rubio, a point guard, minutes earlier. That startling sequence — three point guards in a row, two for the same team — will probably be Jonny Flynn's legacy. Probably.
Just four years ago, Flynn captivated the country. He guided Syracuse over Connecticut in a thrilling six-overtime victory in the Big East tournament. "When we were down and out, he made plays to get us ahead," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said about that night. "That was one of the finest games I've seen from a point guard against a really good defensive team." If you were a basketball fan and missed the start of that game, chances are you were glued to your television by its end. "I'm not sure that he goes into the draft if that game doesn't happen and I know for sure he doesn't go as high as sixth if that game doesn't take place," said Mike Waters, the longtime Syracuse basketball beat reporter for the Post-Standard. "The fact that it was at Madison Square Garden in a tournament format, against somebody like Connecticut on national TV with NBA scouts attending the tournament, a game like that happens and all of a sudden you're the focus of the nation."
That night, one could measure Flynn's playing time by the hour — he logged one hour and seven minutes against Connecticut. In that Clippers summer league game, his play could be measured by the second — 78, to be exact, against the Hawks. Flynn had shown up hoping to prove his health. Players, executives, and coaches who had not seen Flynn as he languished in professional basketball's periphery, first as trade fodder, and then all the way down in Australia, asked the same question in Vegas: Was his hip healthy? He says yes. But in NBA circles, it's show-and-prove. Flynn is still young, only 24, and determined to regain the dynamite-in-a-bottle point guard form he flashed during his rookie season. Showing all that in a measly 78 seconds isn't easy.
The final moments of that game slipped away, inconsequential and quickly forgotten. In Vegas, these games are mostly meaningless, unless you're playing in them. The participants are the NBA's dutiful dreamers: draft picks, journeymen, and roster flotsam who will remember this time fondly. It's the closest many of them will ever come to the NBA. So how did a lottery pick who started 81 games as a rookie end up here?
Flynn became a victim of an unlikely injury and then a casualty of unfortunate circumstance. It would be nearly impossible to replicate the scenario that derailed his career. NBA teams spend millions annually to globally scout, unearth, and project potential draft picks. Still, Flynn flamed out. Now he's trying to right his career.
He told a reporter after the game about his summer goal. "Once in the NBA you get marked as damaged goods, it's like a big X is on your forehead and nobody wants to deal with you," Flynn said from a corner of the Cox Pavilion shortly before the national anthem signaled the beginning of another game. "Just to get up and down the court and show people that I can still play the game and that I'm healthy and that I've been healthy for years."
continued at link, and pretty good read.
makes me wonder if this isn't the low risk high reward type of move we should consider.