PORTLAND, Ore.—Malachi Flynn could pout a little bit, get down and discouraged, and it’d be understandable in some way.
He’s the same player today that he was a season ago, and yet games and games go by and the second-year Raptors guard basically sits and watches.
He’s still got the talent that made him an intriguing prospect as a rookie last season and who’d blame him if he got down on the organization a little bit, because all of a sudden it seems like he’s a forgotten piece.
Then he checks in with some wise old sages who went before him, retired veterans who know the ups and downs of an NBA career, and Flynn soldiers on because circumstances can change quickly.
And besides, nobody likes a whiner.
“You can complain maybe to your brother or something, but complaining over and over and trying to point the finger, it’s not going to do anything,” Flynn said Tuesday after the Raptors practised at the University of Portland, the day after a 118-113 loss to the Trail Blazers.
“I’m not pointing the finger at anybody. I’m taking it upon myself. What can I do to help myself? That’s the only thing I can control.
“It’s definitely easier said than done, but that’s what I’m trying to do.”
It helps, of course, that he has some experienced former NBAers helping him understand what’s going on. The NBA fraternity in the Pacific Northwest is small and tight. Flynn gets counsel from couple of smart old vets.
“Guys from back home like Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford, they tell me the same thing: It’s a long year, keep your head up, just keep working,” Flynn said.
“That’s the only thing you can control. I don’t control how much I go out there; I just control what I do when I’m out there.”
That’s a mature attitude for a 23-year-old who has played, at best, sparingly for the Raptors this year. He’s appeared in only nine of the first 15 games, averages fewer than five minutes — that’s hardly time to have any impact — and he’s been replaced in the rotation most nights by rookie Dalano Banton.
It’s a major comedown for the six-foot-one guard after he played in 47 games last season as a rookie, started 14 late in the season and ended the year as the NBA Eastern Conference rookie of the month.
He’s handled it well, which leads coaches and teammates to support him. If he got whiny and bitter it’d be one thing — it’s easy to bury a malcontent — but Flynn’s a good guy and a good teammate, and people want him to do well.
“I’m glad that he’s hanging in there,” coach Nick Nurse said Monday. “I think he’s being professional. I think he’s working really hard. I think he’s enjoyable to be around. He’s a good teammate, all those kinds of things. So those are all positives, for sure.”
All Flynn has to do to is look across the locker room at teammate Fred VanVleet to understand what it means to have self-belief and put in the work necessary to eventually be rewarded. VanVleet’s career arc is not lost on Flynn.
“He’s another guy — undrafted, had to work his way up — so it’s familiar territory for him. He’s telling me, look, things will change. Just do what you can. Work hard, believe in yourself, be confident and eventually — I don’t know when it will be — things will just start to change.
“Definitely trying to not get too frustrated, just do what I can and see what happens.”
Flynn does have the skills the Raptors could use to snap them out of what’s now a streak of five losses in six games heading into Thursday’s road date with the Utah Jazz. He’s a bigger shooting threat right now than Banton, although he doesn’t have the rookie’s length or breakneck speed. Flynn is, however, a more experienced defender and, with Toronto struggling mightily on that end of the court, that could earn him more playing time.
It would, however, create another rotation change that might take time to get used to, and that’s been a major factor in Toronto’s recent inconsistency.
“The continuity and chemistry, this team hasn’t handled it as well as we probably need to,” Nurse said. “That’s a fact of life in this league. Guys are going to be in and guys are going to be out, and you’ve got to keep some consistency.
“It feels to me that’s where it gets a little sticky on offence and special situations. There just isn’t the comfort of knowing exactly where the pieces are supposed to be. That’s all I can say there.”
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