Turiaf's Return Boosts Wolves' Bench
Turiaf's Return Boosts Wolves' Bench
Timberwolves center Ronny Turiaf has a subtle way of impacting games. If you go by the box score, you sometimes don’t get his full effect. He’s averaging 4.7 points per game for his career and to go along with 3.6 boards. On average in his career he’s played 16.8 minutes a game and hasn’t started a contest since 2011-12.
But there’s a reason why he’s been on six playoff teams during his eight seasons in the league. Turiaf brings intangibles and energy to the table that rub off on teammates, and his play fills gaps on the floor that are essential to winning games in the NBA.
Turiaf returned on Monday night during Minnesota’s 126-95 win over the 76ers in Philadelphia after missing the previous 31 games with a radial fracture of his right elbow. He played 23 minutes in the game and grabbed nine boards to go along with two blocks—all while not registering a point.
But that’s what makes Turiaf special. This Wolves team has bigs up front that can score. What they need is a steady body up front that can take some of the pressure off Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love to come into a game, snag rebounds, move the ball and protect the rim. And in the process, bring an intensity level to the game that can’t help but affect those around him.
It's a part of Turiaf's game that gets noticed by his teammates, including Love—the team's cornerstone. "I definitely felt appreciated, and it felt good to be welcomed back," Turiaf said. "To see [your] teammate happy, see your teammates excited for you, that's what this team sport is all about."
Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Suns, Minnesota is 3-0 when Turiaf is in the lineup with wins over Orlando, Oklahoma City and a win over a Sixers team that was riding a four-game winning streak.
Monday’s game in Philly was the first time since Nov. 1 that all five Wolves starters played fewer than 30 minutes. Coincidence? With Turiaf in the lineup, he provides the veteran presence inside the Wolves lacked over the past two months. He allows Pekovic and Love to get valuable rest on the bench while still keeping the Wolves from giving up big runs. He does it in different ways—while Pekovic and Love provide the scoring muscle, Turiaf’s impact is helping the flow on the offensive end while making his bigger impact on the defensive end.
He showcased his ability to fit in with the starters or reserves during his time on the court Monday, another nice part of Turiaf's game that makes him valuable. Adelman is able to mix and match him with different units depending on the situation.
Turiaf filled that role for teams throughout his career with great success. He was part of the Lakers’ Western Conference championship in 2007-08, the Heat’s title run in 2011-12 and has been on playoff teams with the Clippers and Knicks as well.
“After the first minute and a half I felt good, obviously just get in better conditioning and just keep going,” Turiaf said postgame. “Just trying to play the game the right way, just making sure my teammates were getting open shots by setting good screens, moving the ball and playing defense.”
That’s the mindset that made him so valuable over the past eight years, and it’s why the Wolves pursued him this offseason.
In order to have goals of success in the NBA, you need players like Ronny Turiaf. There’s a reason he’s been on so many playoff runs in his career. He’s able to do all the little things necessary to help on the court, and he brings such a presence in the locker room with his jovial personality coupled with his intense competitive nature. He immediately became a favorite in the locker room during Training Camp and gained praise from Rick Adelman and the coaching staff for being a great teammate from Day 1.
Since suffering that elbow injury on Nov. 1 against the Thunder, he’s been relegated to being simply a vocal presence in games while slowly but surely working to get healthy. Over the past couple weeks, he elevated his recovery from simply shooting and dribbling to 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 contact. He was activated Monday morning and announced as a reserve on the bench about an hour before gametime.
If Turiaf stays healthy, he can provide this type of impact all season. He’ll take some of the workload off Love and Pekovic, give the team a veteran presence protecting the rim and help increase the intensity level on the floor.
"It's a long season, so we all have to be ready bringing whatever we can to the table," Turiaf said. "We all have something to bring to the table. That makes us a pretty good basketball squad."