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Guard Malachi Flynn making most of more minutes off Raptors' bench

Toronto Raptors guard Malachi Flynn, centre, passes between Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley and guard Darius Garland in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Cleveland. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Sue Ogrocki

TORONTO — Malachi Flynn raced around both of the courts at the OVO Athletic Centre, arms above his head for the final stretch, to the delight of Dennis Schroder and his other drilling partners at Toronto Raptors practice.

Flynn had just "wiped the board," meaning he had hit five three-pointers from five different spots on the floor, then backtracked and hit five consecutive shots, one from each spot, to finish his practice early.

"Dennis, he likes to do that so I had to take a page out of his book when I won and have fun a little bit," said Flynn on the over-the-top celebration last week.

It's the kind of joy that Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic has encouraged all of his players to bring to the court. Flynn said that the first-year NBA head coach has been developing an individual rapport with all the Raptors, but has been consistent in his advice to all of them.

"Maybe smile one or two times more," said Flynn on some of Rajakovic's words to him. "I mean, the game is fun to me even if I have a serious face throughout.

"I think that when I'm playing that's what I would do, regardless."

Flynn earned the Raptors' game MVP chain on Nov. 23 after scoring 14 points with four rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes of play off the bench in a 132-131 win in Indiana, proof that Flynn can grow under Rajakovic's systems.

"Just trying to be aggressive, trying to help the team win," said Flynn a day after earning the accolade. "Some games are different. 

"Just a little bit more scoring (in that game) than I have been, just trying to come out and help my team win."

Rajakovic said that Flynn had a slow start to the season but has noticeably improved.

"He's catching the rhythm now, he's finding some confidence there. He's able to help us in some situations," said Rajakovic on Wednesday. "We've got to give a fair chance to all of those guys for them to succeed. 

"We've got to do everything that's in our power, that is in my power, to give them that opportunity."

Rajakovic's faith in Flynn can be seen in his average minutes played going up to 17 from 13 under former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse last season. That extra time on the court has resulted in 5.8 points, 2.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game, all higher than last season's averages.

Flynn was called on to play 16 minutes in Tuesday's 115-103 loss in Brooklyn. He scored five points and had an assist in that time, coming off the bench as training staff looked at Schroder's tweaked knee.

Rajakovic said that Flynn's increased minutes over the course of the season are, in part, to prepare him for moments like that.

"We've got to think about developing all of those guys and giving them opportunities night in and night out," said Rajakovic.

The 25-year-old guard said he's not concerned with how many minutes he's played or any other stats.

"Just wins and losses. I say it over and over," said Flynn. "We're still below .500. We feel like we've dropped a couple games but I think we're trending in the right direction.

"Once we get figured out and we play consistent, night in and night out, I think we will be a really good team." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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