Wolves lose to Thunder; Jonny Flynn considering rehab stint in NBDL
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The Minnesota Timberwolves played their 15th game of the season in a 117-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It was their also their 15th game this season without Jonny Flynn, and with no clear timetable for when he will return, the Wolves have given him the option of completing a rehab stint in the NBA Developmental League.
"I think it would be beneficial for him," coach Kurt Rambis said before Friday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 21-year-old second-year point guard out of Syracuse had an operation on his left hip over the summer that was tentatively scheduled to keep him out until mid-November. But as the calendar creeps into late-November, it may be time to start looking at other options.
Rambis has said recently that Flynn is still "a ways away" from returning.
"(Flynn) is amicable to (a rehab stint) and I think it would be a good option for him," Rambis said.
Flynn has been practicing with the team but has complained of general soreness in his hip, usually the morning after practicing. His conditioning is another issue, having missed the entire summer league; Flynn has not played in a game since April 12, making a stint in the slowed down D-League even more logical while he gets his feet back under him.
"(The rehab assignment will start) when he tells us that he is ready to play and all of the medical staff he that he is ready to play too," Rambis said.
NBA rules state that only players in their first or second season can rehab injuries in the D-League, making Flynn eligible for assignment to the Sioux Falls Skyforce -- the Wolves' D-League affiliate.
The Skyforce season opens Tuesday in Fort Wayne before playing their first home game Saturday against the Dakota Wizards, a more likely option for Flynn. If this situation lingers even longer, the Skyforce play seven consecutive home games from Dec. 3 to Christmas Day.
There is no time limit for an NBA player's rehab assignment in the D-League and Rambis says there are variables for how long Flynn would stay.
"Depends on their schedule and how he feels," Rambis said. "If he feels great after a couple of them, we will see. We don't know how he is going to respond after playing in a ball game."
If nothing else, a potential rehab stint for Flynn would be an interesting case study for possibly expanding the rules to allow more than just first and second year players to rehab in the D-League.
"It's unfortunate in our league that we don't have a minor league system like baseball and hockey to send a guy down to get a feel for the game, the rhythm and pace of the game," Rambis said. "It's unfortunate we can't do that on a legitimate basis with all of our players."
Obviously the sophomore season is important for every NBA player but it is magnified for Flynn and the Wolves because of the giant elephant in the room, or in this case, the 6-foot-4 Spanish point guard currently playing for Barcelona.
It is no secret that the Wolves want Ricky Rubio to be the point guard of the future but questions still remain if Rubio has any desire to play in Minnesota.
Rubio spoke with ESPN's 'Outside The Lines' on Nov. 14 and was asked if he was trying to force Minnesota to trade his rights, Rubio said, "No but you can never give a definite yes until the time comes. I think it's about playing in the NBA. Playing in the NBA is a dream and the truth is, Minnesota has my rights for the time being and I have a lot of trust in them."
Although Rubio does not come out and say he doesn't want to play in Minnesota, it doesn't take a detective to read between the lines and see he still has reservations.
Rubio can buy out of his contract with Barcelona after the 2010-11 season for a reported $ 1.4 million. Of that $1.4 million, the Wolves can only contribute $500,000, per the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Wolves can, however, trade the rights to Rubio at anytime, which brings us back to Flynn.
The team needs Flynn back on the court not just for the short-term wins and losses but for the long-term rebuilding of this franchise too.
Simple math says that two bargaining chips are better than one and that is exactly what the Wolves will have if Flynn comes back and shows he has what it takes to be a starting point guard in this league. If he can do that, the Wolves will have a lot more leverage if and when it comes time to deal the rights to Rubio. Conversely, if the young nucleus of talent is enough to get Rubio stateside, the Wolves will have another great trade piece in Flynn if he can prove himself as a bona fide starter.
Although all of that is contingent on Flynn coming back and improving upon a rookie season that saw him average 13.5 points and 4.4 assists in 81 games a year ago. If Flynn has a setback with his hip injury or regresses in form, his trade value would diminish and the team no longer has a backup plan if things do not work out with Rubio.
The best case scenario for the Wolves is that Flynn returns relatively soon and has a productive second season and Rubio decides he wants to buyout of his contract with Barcelona and play for the Wolves in the 2011-2012 season. This would give the Wolves a known commodity in Flynn and the rights to Rubio, who is still a tantalizing player that team's may still be willing to give up a lot for.
The worst case scenario would be if Flynn either suffers a setback or does not take any step forward on the court this season and Rubio decides he is not interested in playing in Minnesota. Remember, if Rubio is adamant enough about not playing in Minnesota, he can sit out a season of professional basketball and re-enter the NBA draft no longer tied to the Wolves.
It is an unlikely scenario, however, as Rubio likely isn't willing to lose a season of professional basketball which is crucial for the development of a player who just turned 20 in October but is still a possibility nonetheless.
Either way, judgment day is slowly but surely coming for president of basketball operations David Kahn's controversial decision to take two point guards with the fifth and sixth overall picks in the 2009 NBA Draft. It was a decision that could play a large part in making-or-breaking not only David Kahn's tenure in Minnesota but the current rebuilding of the Wolves franchise too.