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Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012

Friendship helped lead Roy to Timberwolves


MANKATO, Minnesota — 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.

News photo
New beginning: Brandon Roy will attempt a comeback with the Timberwolves. AP

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."

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.' "

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.

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