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News » Who needs Rubio? Wolves happy with Flynn

Who needs Rubio? Wolves happy with Flynn

Who needs Rubio? Wolves happy with FlynnMINNEAPOLIS (AP) - For a point guard who has spent his entire life in upstate New York, Jonny Flynn sure seems to have a lot of the Big Apple in him.

New York City was once considered the birthplace of point guards, having spawned an impressive list of future NBA stars from Bob Cousy and Lenny Wilkens to Mark Jackson and, before his meltdown, Stephon Marbury.

All had considerable physical gifts, but followers romanticized that what set them apart was a grit and charisma gained while playing in the famed tournaments like those held in Harlem's Rucker Park.

Flynn may have been born and raised in Niagara Falls before heading to college at Syracuse, but he sure seems to fit right in. He's a scoring point guard with the kind of toughness and swagger that helped take Kenny Anderson and Rod Strickland from the streets to the show.

What sealed the deal for the Minnesota Timberwolves, however, was Flynn's performance in his interviews with president David Kahn, who saw a natural leader with a unique blend of charm, competitiveness and tenacity.

Even after drafting Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio with the fifth overall pick, Kahn didn't hesitate to take Flynn at No. 6.

And now that Rubio has decided to stay in Spain for at least the next two years, Flynn will have plenty of opportunity to show he was worth it.

"I'm really eager for this town to get to know Jonny because I think that Jonny has a chance, just because of his innate charisma, to become one of the most popular players to ever play here," Kahn said. "I really believe that. And I'm not just talking about basketball. I'm talking about in this city."

That's saying something, considering the Twin Cities have been home to such beloved stars as Kirby Puckett, Kevin Garnett, Harmon Killebrew and Fran Tarkenton, while Joe Mauer and Adrian Peterson currently hold down the fort.

"I truly believe he's that special in terms of his charisma and his leadership capabilities," Kahn said. "I don't want to go too far on the basketball part of it because I don't want to put an inordinate amount of pressure on the kid. I probably have said too much already. But I think that his personality is unique and I think that people will gravitate towards him and it will be fun to watch."

Flynn spent all summer watching the Timberwolves court Rubio, with Kahn even saying that the Spanish prodigy would be the starting point guard on Day 1 of training camp.

Some players might have been offended. Flynn said he was actually disappointed when Rubio told the Wolves he would be staying overseas for the time being.

"Especially for a guy like me, he can make me so much better," Flynn said. "I would have sat here and learned from him. I would have taken things out of his game and put them into my game."

Kahn has said he was high on Flynn going into the draft and never thought that Rubio, whom he called "a virtuoso," was going to fall to No. 5. Even when Rubio was there, Kahn still couldn't pass on Flynn, envisioning the pair playing together in a backcourt of the future.

So when Rubio told Kahn he wasn't coming yet, the executive was blunt with the teenager.

"When we drafted (Rubio), I told him he would be listed as the No. 1 point guard," Kahn said. "Now that you look at it in the context of him being over there for two years, it's possible he wouldn't be anymore. ... If Jonny were to develop and Ricky were to come over, he could come as the backup point guard."

It's Flynn's job now, and he isn't flinching at the expectations.

"It shows how much he thinks of me not only as a basketball player but as a person," Flynn said. "To be one of the biggest stars in Twin Cities history, you have to be well-liked off the court. You can't be an arrogant guy that people don't love.

"He sees me as somebody that's a well-rounded individual, on the basketball court and as a person. That means a lot coming from him. I'm going to try to live up to that."

Flynn says he's been that way since he was a school boy in Niagara Falls. Precocious and social, Flynn always had something he needed to tell one of his buddies, never mind that class was in session.

"I used to get in trouble all the time," Flynn said. "Teachers had to split me up from my friends. I would be the only desk that was pushed away from everybody else in class. That was definitely me when I was younger."

That outgoing personality has helped him as a point guard. He is the quarterback on the court, the player who can dictate the pace of the game, get the offense started and distribute the wealth.

"He was just like a born leader," his father, William Flynn, said in a telephone interview. "Guys just take to Jonny."

William Flynn said those qualities really started to take shape on the football field, basketball court and baseball diamond of Jonny's youth.

"He just knew how to lead," William Flynn said. "It would just automatically kick in. It's amazing how it happened."

Jonny Flynn credits growing up in a two-parent household, and having a minister for a father, with his success.

"Coming from the area I come from, you don't see anybody with a father in the household," Jonny Flynn said. "It's truly a blessing to have that male figure, that role-model figure in my life that can teach me how to become a man."

To hear his father tell it, young Jonny had plenty of parents in Niagara Falls, a town of around 55,000 residents that draws tourists year-round because of the breathtaking falls.

"He was kind of raised up by everybody," William Flynn said. "He's everybody's son."

The mayor of Niagara Falls gave Jonny Flynn the key to the city this summer, and the entire town has rallied around the chatty little boy who grew up to find riches in the NBA.

"The town is really behind Jonny," William Flynn said. "He is the town's No. 1 son. He's enjoying the moment and is trying not to let it be bigger than it really is for him."

That is why Flynn is so confident that he can succeed with the young and rebuilding Timberwolves. Despite Kahn's eyebrow-raising assertion that this 20-year-old kid could one day be as popular as Puckett was here, Flynn doesn't think he is being asked to do anything out of the ordinary.

"That's just how I am," he said with a smile. "It's pressure when you have to switch who you are and try to adapt to what David Kahn is saying. But what he's saying, that's just me.

"I'm charismatic. I smile a lot. I like to have fun and joke around. I'm friendly to people. I don't call that pressure. I just have to go out and continue to be Jonny Flynn."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 25, 2009


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