MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — When Minnesota Timberwolves President David Kahn made his pitch to Brandon Roy, he had a glaring need at shooting guard for him to fill, an accomplished coach who could put Roy in the right positions on the floor and a two-year contract all on his side to woo the former All-Star.
He also had Will Conroy.
Kahn and Conroy go way back, to their time together in the NBDL when Kahn was the GM of the Albuquerque Thunderbirds and Conroy was his point guard. Conroy goes back even farther with Roy. The two were teammates at Garfield High School in Seattle and at the University of Washington, and have been the closest of friends for years.
Conroy also played briefly in Houston with current Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman. So when it came time for Roy to decide where to start his comeback after sitting out a season with chronic knee pain, the Wolves had a strong voice in Roy’s inner circle that may have made the difference.
“When Minnesota was one of the teams that stepped forward to being on his radar, I said ‘B, you’ve got to go to Minnesota,'” Conroy said. “Now the weather is a little different. But you’ll love playing there. You’ll love playing for the coaching staff. He had a couple of teams with some nice cities like Dallas, Golden State, Chicago. He chose Minnesota, which is a big testament to the coaching staff and our front office.”
And to the trust that Roy has in Conroy. Along with fellow Seattle native Jamal Crawford, another occasional Timberwolves free-agent target who signed with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer, the three have a tight bond that is years in the making. They rely on each other for career advice, moral support and everything else. So it’s no surprise that when Roy was making a big decision, Conroy was in on the discussion.
“We’re best friends,” Conroy said. “We try to tell each other the best things possible as far as our careers and guiding our careers and stuff like that. If it wasn’t a good situation, I wouldn’t have told him to come.”
Getting a playmaking veteran with prototypical size at shooting guard was a priority for the Timberwolves entering the offseason. Wes Johnson had difficulty handling the ball and was traded to Phoenix, leaving Adelman with undersized point guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea and Russian import Alexey Shved as the main options alongside Ricky Rubio in the backcourt.
“He was actually the one that kind of helped me talk to David Kahn and get that relationship,” Roy said of Conroy. “He just really enjoyed the team. He said Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio were all good players. So when I told him I was going to come back, he thought Minnesota was a team I’d fit good with.”
The Wolves knew Roy would be a little bit of a gamble because of his knees, which forced Portland to use the amnesty clause on his contract and cut him loose. But Roy had a procedure done in June to try to address the bone-on-bone issue in his knees and worked out with Wolves assistant Bill Bayno, who had previously coached Roy on the Blazers staff. Bayno saw glimpses of the old Roy, and the courtship was on.
“Whenever you’re recruiting a player, there’s a lot of hands on deck and a lot of helpful things you can draw upon and (Conroy) was one of them,” Kahn said.
Now Conroy is hoping to be Roy’s teammate once again. After college, Roy became a franchise player for the Portland Trail Blazers and Conroy set about on a basketball journey to keep the dream alive. He’s had several 10-day contracts with Memphis, Houston and the Clippers and made stops throughout the D-League and Europe.
“I always used to joke around with (Kahn),” Conroy said of his time in Albuquerque. “I said, ‘David once you get yourself a real general manager job in the league you have to give me a job. He said, ‘We’ll see. We’ll see.'”
Conroy had a brief stint with the Wolves in training camp last season, but it was cut short after a problem with his FIBA clearance, a bureaucratic issue that arises when NBA teams bring in players who are playing overseas. So he’s back to try to secure the last available roster spot.
As usual, the odds are stacked against Conroy. Rubio is recovering from an ACL injury but is expected to be back in mid-December. The Wolves also have Ridnour, Barea, Malcolm Lee and Shved who can serve as primary ball-handlers.
Whatever happens with him on the court, Conroy already is assured of leaving his mark with the Wolves. Roy has looked impressive in the first four days of training camp, and the Wolves are hopeful that he can again be a difference maker.
In the meantime, Conroy is giving Roy pointers on settling into a new environment. It’s the first time in Roy’s life that he is living outside of the Northwest, while Conroy knows a thing or two about acclimating to new cities.
“I got a lot of frequent flier mileage, domestic and abroad,” Conroy said with a smile. “He definitely listens to me in that facet.
“I kind of get a lot from him because he’s played five or six NBA seasons. I’m trying to add to my resume and stack some of those up. Once we’re done with it we can look back and laugh. You started fast, but I’ve got some years in too now.”
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