Typical Timberwolves fan experience: the same week the greatest success of the offseason is achieved, some silly recent history gets rehashed under the national sports spotlight. Wolves fans don’t forget this stuff, but a nation of football fans needs a refresher from time to time.
What am I talking about? The Grantland piece Jonathan Abrams did on Jonny Flynn’s derailment from the NBA and his quest to return has been on everyone’s must read list since it was posted.
There are some familiar tropes from the Kurt Rambis defenders: I never should have even mentioned the word triangle, we’re not running the triangle all the time, management seriously messed the bed in the draft, the players didn’t get the system, the injuries, the injuries, the injuries… The lack of responsibility taken for anything in this dark period of Wolves history is absolutely pathetic. Like everyone ran into the same wall so many times they can’t remember it existed.
I am happy to remember what a straight-up good guy Al Jefferson was — his quotes were my favorite parts of the story, as well as the casual acknowledgment Rambis’ tricycle offense was a bone-headed disaster to keep running.
The triangle flummoxed Flynn. The system does not benefit point guards who are at their best with the ball in their hands. While players like Derek Fisher and Ron Harper have thrived in the system, more talented players like Jason Kidd and Gary Payton have struggled. “It was like a second language,” Flynn said. “You know how some people can pick up on Spanish and can communicate a little bit, but [they're] not fluent in it? That’s how I was in the triangle. I’m coming from a system in college and my whole life where I’m playing pick-and-rolls, where I’m able to freelance and do what I want.”
Al Jefferson played under Rambis during Flynn’s rookie season before being traded to Utah. He recalled the triangle being difficult to run because Minnesota lacked the outside shooters to make it work.
“When Kurt took the job, he said he was only going to use a little of the triangle,” Jefferson said. “But once he got in and took over that’s all he used. It was tough for me because we didn’t have 3-point shooters … We had the right type of players for another system like a pick-and-roll system. Jonny Flynn could have been one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the league. He was so deadly in the pick-and-roll, but as far as the offense we were trying to run, I didn’t think it was the right system for us.”
If Flynn could have somehow found his way to Utah with Al, I know the hip injury was still there and it gets an awful lot of play in the article itself — I am extremely dubious of its overall significance to Flynn’s lack of success — but if Flynn would have had an atmosphere in which he was expected to defend and could still have his pick and roll security blanket, maybe he’d have had half the success Ty Lawson had early on as a change-of-pace backup point guard. Maybe that’s a humongous maybe.
Al Jefferson, his former teammate, said Flynn’s play his rookie season justified his lofty draft selection — only he was chosen by the wrong team. “He was drafted to replace another point guard until he was ready to come over, and then he came into a triangle offense, really an offense not meant for a point guard with his type of skill,” Jefferson said. “He came in against all odds and I think my man really handled it very well. He was the only rookie I’ve ever been around — even Kevin Love — that came in and tried to take that leadership role, and I let him do that. I didn’t mind him doing that because you could tell that he was that type of guy.”
Nice words for a fallen, former teammate, Big Al. If only you or Jonny could have defended or passed better, I could have been a fan.