Even in the midst of a losing season, Minnesota Timberwolves rookie point guard, Jonny Flynn, still manages to keep a smile on his face. Returning to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night was sort of a homecoming for the Niagara Falls (NY) native. For two seasons, Flynn starred at Syracuse and had some huge moments in the Garden – including the legendary, six overtime victory over Connecticut in the 2009 Big East Tournament.
The sixth overall pick in the ’09 Draft attracted a large group of reporters in an otherwise empty Timberwolves locker room. A lot of the media that crowded Flynn before the game were journalists from Syracuse, who made the four hour trek to the big city to catch up with the former Orange floor general.
Always engaging and positive, Flynn willingly schmoozed with the media and repeatedly answered the same questions about the six overtime game and his rookie season. After the media crowd started to disperse, I sat down with six-foot Flynn, who is averaging 14.1 points and 4.1 assists per game in ’09-10…
Dime: What is like to be back in the Garden – a place where you had so many big moments?
Jonny Flynn: It’s great, I’ve had a lot of memories in this gym. It’s been one of the last great venues that’s still standing. All the history and not even on the basketball court. All the singers and rappers and boxing matches here, so there’s just a whole lot of history outside those doors right there. So just to be coming here and be playing on a professional level is a great experience.
Dime: What do you remember about the atmosphere in the Garden?
JF: It gets rocking. I remember that overtime game, people were standing up the whole time, nobody sat down. So it’s great fans down here, great Syracuse following down here, so hopefully I see a lot of them out tonight and come and support them.
Dime: Because you’re a native New Yorker, were you hoping the Knicks would draft you?
JF: It definitely would be great to be here. I grew up a Knicks fan my whole life. I definitely thought about coming to play for New York during the Draft process and when the projections came out. But you know, things didn’t work out like that. I’m happy in Minnesota and I have a great opportunity here. I’m starting and playing a lot of minutes as a rookie. So you can’t ask for nothing more than that.
Dime: Describe how you’re rookie season has gone so far.
JF: It’s been a lot of ups and downs. Definitely tough to adjust to all this losing. It’s something a lot of guys here aren’t used to. But it comes with it. Before the sunshine comes out, it’s going to be a storm. This is that storm and we’re just weathering it right now and success will come down the road.
Dime: So do the veterans on the team haze you and Wayne Ellington?
(note: Ellington is sitting right beside Flynn and they both smirk and look both ways to see if any of their teammates are listening to his answer)
JF: Yes! The only thing we got to do is like get donuts (Flynn is half-whispering). We get donuts, Wayne gets Five Hour Energy. We might have to grab scouting reports. We don’t have to do all that crazy stuff, so we keep quiet and do whatever they ask, so we don’t have to do no crazy stuff.
Dime: What has been the biggest adjustment on the court coming from college to the NBA?
JF: On the court? Everybody’s good. From the best player on the team, on to the last man on the bench to the guys inactive – everybody can go out there and play. Those guys were the main guys on their college teams or overseas. Everybody has the ability to play the game of basketball at a high level. That’s definitely the biggest change from college.
Dime: What about the adjustment off the court?
JF: All the free time. You just have so much free time. In college, you might go from class from 8 to 2. Then you have practice, study hall, then you might do something. Now out here, you got like two hours of practice and your day is over at 12, 1 O’clock. I’ll go to the mall or sleep. Or just Facebook and Twitter. Those are my new best friends this year. I’ll be logged on all the time (laughs).
Dime: Who has been your toughest opponent so far?
JF: Aaron Brooks had a pretty good game against me. We went into three overtimes, he had like 40 on me. He didn’t miss a shot. But who’s the player that I think is the toughest just guarding? I’d have to say Deron Williams. Six-three, strong, can shoot the ball really well, great handle. He’s the toughest, he’s hard to guard. Deron Williams, played against him three times already – he’s really tough.
Dime: Were you invited to participate in the dunk contest?
JF: No, I wasn’t asked to be in the dunk. I’d do it though, I’d definitely do it just to do it. I can do a little of everything. Between the legs, however you want it. I can go out and do a little something. I hide them a little bit until the right time (laughs).
Dime: Who do you think will win though?
JF: I think DeMar DeRozan will win the Dunk In and then he’ll win the whole thing. Him or Shannon Brown. But I’m going with DeMar DeRozan because he’s a rookie.
Dime: Do you ever get star struck on the court?
JF: Not really. Allen Iverson, I’d say looking up to him when I was younger. And now I’m like, ‘I’m finally out here with Allen Iverson.’ I really didn’t say nothing to him, but that’s the only time I’d say I was- not star struck – but, ‘I’m out here with A.I.’
Dime: When you did the Draft Diary for Dime, we saw how charismatic you are in front of the camera. Is TV in your future?
JF: That’s what I want to do! I want to do TV when I’m done. I’d love to stay around basketball. Being an analyst or commentating at games. I’ve got the nice smile, the good personality, so I think could really make a living in that (laughs).
(Ellington looks at me, smirks and points his finger at Flynn while shaking his head)
Dime: If you could be on a TV show, which one would it be?
JF: You ever seen The Game on BET? It’s about this football team like an NFL team. I’d want to be in that!
Wayne Ellington: I’d be in Entourage cuz (both of them laugh).