Why Jonny Flynn's D-League Assignment Could Be Most Important in League History
Flynn averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists as rookie last season while starting all 81 games he played. After undergoing hip surgery in the offseason, however, Flynn has just recently been cleared to play again.
"I'm excited just to get back out there. Just to get in the flow of things, shaking the rust off. You can't do a lot of things in practice you can in a game situation," Flynn told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Since I've been back, I haven't had a chance to just full-out play. I just want to get a game feel: Go out there 35 minutes and just play. Play as long as I can, play as hard as I can and just see how I respond to that.
"I don't think I could get a good evaluation just playing a little bit of time. I think it's going to help. I'm really looking forward to it."
Though the rehab stint is only expected to last one game, it could also be the most important assignment in the league's 10-year history. Since assignments were made available to NBA teams, one of the main gripes has been the rule that only first and second-year NBA players are eligible to be assigned to the big club's D-League counterpart.
"I still think they should change a lot of the D-League rules," Doc Rivers told ESPN Boston earlier this year. "I think we should be able to rehab guys in the (D-League), even if it's a veteran. If a veteran doesn't want to, that's fine. But let's say Paul Pierce is coming back and he says, 'Coach, I'd love to go play a couple games (in Maine),' then it'd be great to able to use it in that way."
The willingness of Flynn deciding to test out his hip in the D-League, despite being an established NBA player (albeit not nearly as established as Pierce) could open up talks in this summer's collective bargaining negotiations that might make the player's association more amenable to veterans being assigned to the D-League for a quick rehab stint before returning full bore in the NBA.
The key may be that the veteran is given the option to play in the D-League as opposed to being forced to go down for a rehab stint, like the Flynn assignment -- but even then it would open up new opportunities. For NBA clubs, it would offer a chance for players to be sure that they are healthy before being thrust into an actual game that matters to the team's record.
If veteran rehab assignments were allowed, the D-League would likely benefit more from a marketing standpoint than anywhere else, but that isn't such a bad thing. Unlike Monday's assignment of Rodrigue Beaubois to the D-League from the Dallas Mavericks, fans will be able to watch Flynn -- a player that was an integral part of the NBA team playing its home games less than 250 miles from Sioux Falls last season -- and cheer him on like he's a Skyforce regular. And, if you don't believe he's marketable, the first tweet the Skyforce sent after announcing Flynn's assignment was how to buy tickets to their game Friday night.
While it may not amount to anything other than giving D-League aficionados a better idea of how good Iowa Energy point guard Curtis Stinson can be against legitimate NBA competition, the Flynn assignment could set a precedent that would impact the league for many years to come.