D-League Report: Jonny Flynn, Antoine Walker, and Games to Watch

It’s my first post on Saving the Skyhook and I’m thrilled. I’m very excited to see what we can build here, and I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Once a week, we’ll take a look at the news and notes from the NBA D-League and keep you up to speed with the relevant story lines. One cool thing about the D-League is that every game is available in streaming format through NBA.com/dleague. We’ll also point to 2-3 games a week that we think you’ll enjoy.

Jonny Flynn and the Importance of D-League Assignments

The NBA has already sent 13 players on assignment to the D-League this season, but perhaps none has been as important as Jonny Flynn’s assignment to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

When Flynn was initially assigned to play for the Skyforce, it was meant as an opportunity to see how the former first round pick would play in a game after his offseason hip surgery. The plan was for him to play 2-3 games with the Skyforce before returning to the team. After an impressive performance in his first game, the Timberwolves recalled him only to send him back to the Sky Force Wednesday for another 2-3 games.

Flynn’s journey in the D-League is an important one because it’s not one that many expected to be necessary. Flynn was drafted 6th overall by the Timberwolves in the 2009 Draft after an impressive two-year career at Syracuse (16.6 PPG, 6.0 APG). As a rookie, Flynn averaged 13.5 PPG and 4.4 APG last year while playing 28.9 minutes a game.

He may have been drafted into a difficult situation with the Timberwolves, but few have ever doubted his ability to play on the NBA level. If Flynn can play meaningful basketball with the Skyforce and successfully make his way back to the Wolves starting lineup, maybe even with a little stronger confidence, it will hopefully lift some of the stigma younger players have with the D-League, making it easier for NBA GMs to use the D-League as a resource for younger talent who may be struggling to adjust to the NBA game.

In all, there are 13 players currently assigned to the D-League from the NBA. The record for D-League assignments is 32, a record that seems likely to have some competition this year.

Antoine Walker: Trying to Get Back to Boston by way of Boise

Here’s another reason that the D-League is getting interesting this season.

Antoine Walker, a twelve year veteran, three-time All-Star and former NBA Champion (2006 Miami Heat), has joined the Idaho Stampede in an effort to forge a comeback to the NBA, presumably to the Boston Celtics.

As one might expect, Walker has faced a number of critics so far in this effort, but as is reported on FanHouse, Walker’s intentions do appear to be sincere. He has been out of the league for two years, but has been working to get himself into better shape and has been working to improve his skills.

Walker played his first game of his D-League career last night, going 5-11 from the field and 3-5 from the line, scoring 13 points while earning 6 rebounds and 3 assists from 26 minutes in the Stampede’s first win of the season.

Nets and Armor Will Become Single Affiliates

This is an older bit of news, but it’s worth noting that the New Jersey Nets announced last month that they will become single affiliation partners with the Springfield Armor next season. The Nets and Armor join the Houston Rockets and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in agreeing to this arrangement, which many feel is an important step for evolving the D-League as the NBA’s minor league. Why? This from the NBA: “In a structure similar to other minor leagues, this partnership model, also referred to as the ‘hybrid affiliation,’ allows for NBA teams to secure control over and cover the expenses related to the basketball operations of an NBA D-League team, while partnering with existing local ownership, which maintains responsibility for the team’s off-the-court business operations.”

Games to Watch This Week

Friday, Dec 10th – 8:00 PM ET
New Mexico Thunderbirds (4-3) vs Iowa Energy (7-1) – Gamecast

The New Mexico Thunderbirds are 3rd in the Western Conference and has seen especially good play out of Alan Anderson (22.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.5 APG) out of Michigan State and Shane Edwards (19.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG) out of Arkansas-Little Rock.

The Iowa Energy, meanwhile, are 1st in the East, lead by former D-League Performer of the Week Othyus Jeffers (20.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and a particularly strong performance from Curtis Stinson on Sunday night. The Energy are still largely considered to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

Also, and be sure to remember that I’m the one who told you, if you happen to be in the Iowa area, this game is featured as a $1 Beer Night on the Energy’s homepage, so…

Sunday, December 12th – 5:00 PM ET
Texas Legends (5-1) vs the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (4-2) – Gamecast

This game is the second of a two-game stand by Fort Wayne against a particularly interesting Texas Legends team. The Mad Ants are flanked by Roderick Wilmont (21.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG) and Walker Russell, who was named as the D-League Performer of the Week after averaging 24.5 PPG, 12.5 APG and 3.5 RPG last week.

The Legends are playing in their first season as a franchise, but already boasts as much star power as any team in the league. They get to work with assignment players such as Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, they’re starting to see production from Rashard McCants and Antonio Daniels, and that’s not to mention the fact that they’re coached by Nancy Lieberman. The Legends are 2nd in the Western Conference and still look to be warming up.

Hardwood Paroxysm