TURIAF AND HOLLINS MAKE SOLID PAIR OFF BENCH
The depth and versatility on the new-look Clippers bench is most often celebrated because of its three high-profile additions: scoring dynamo Jamal Crawford, playmaking forward Lamar Odom, veteran seven-time All-Star Grant Hill. Even young mainstay, point guard Eric Bledsoe, who scored a game-high 22 points with 11 assists and nine steals Wednesday against the Lakers, is becoming a more and more identifiable member of a bench that Head Coach Vinny Del Negro says at full strength could be as good as anyone.
In the preseason, though, big men Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins, both offseason free-agent acquisitions, have gone somewhat unheralded despite carving a niche as an energetic and unique tandem behind starters DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. .
“They’ve been solid,” Del Negro said. “Ronny really knows how to play, makes nice easy passes, shares the basketball, is in the right spot a lot. Ryan brings great energy, great length up front, runs the court well. I like the way he dives, flattens the defense for us. They have two different skill sets but they work well together.” .
The differences between the two are palatable. .
Hollins thrives on his athleticism, playing above the rim on offense and protecting it on the other end of the floor. The 6-foot-11 center has been the beneficiary of lobs from Chris Paul, Crawford, and Bledsoe, among others. He is one of three Clippers to appear in all eight games this preseason and led the team in blocked shots with 19, including four in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the Nuggets. .
In that game he also converted a free throw following a two-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass from Paul. It was his 14th consecutive make from line, a streak spanning the past four games. .
Turiaf, on the contrary, plays much more below the rim and away from the hoop than his wiry teammate. He scraps for rebounds, pulling down 10 or more in back-to-back games, and finds ways to take advantage of angles as a cutter and passer on the offensive end. .
“They’re completely different and that’s what we wanted for that second group,” Del Negro said. “Ryan does a good job running the court, setting screens. Ronny is very good at handling the basketball and going and getting it. I’ve been pleased with that combination.” .
For Turiaf, sharing the court with Hollins is about working together and playing off one another, using their distinctions as an advantage. It’s something they managed to do rather quickly considering they have been teammates for a little less than three months. .
“Me and Ryan are in constant communication,” said Turiaf, who has played 20.1 minutes per game in the preseason. “I tell him what I see and he tells me what he sees and we try to feed off each other. He tries to make my life easy on defense and I try to make his life easier on offense. We are like a nice little combo. He can finish so easy at the basket, I can pass the ball and make plays. I can use my basketball IQ to get into spaces and create space for Ryan and stuff. I really enjoy playing with him.” .
Part of it is simply having an understanding of their roles alongside Crawford, Bledsoe and Matt Barnes. According to Bledsoe, the bench as a whole seems to understand that concept. “Everybody just kind of comes in and buys into the system. Everybody’s got to play their role,” he said Thursday. .
With Odom, who will ultimately be an integral cog in the Clippers bench, working his way into playing shape and nursing bone bruises in both knees, Turiaf and Hollins could take on an expanded role in the front court as the team ventures into the regular season. It is something Del Negro is prepared for, and quite frankly, sounds comfortable with. .
“I have a lot of confidence in both of them,” Del Negro said. “We’re going to need those guys at some time whether it’s the beginning of the year, middle of the year, end of the year. They’ve just got to stay ready.”