Turiaf's Return Much-Needed As Wolves Beat Grizzlies
Ronny Turiaf’s return on Wednesday night was admittedly a tad surprising across the board. Turiaf, who missed 19 straight games with a bruised right knee, hadn’t been able to practice with the Wolves in 5-on-5 situations prior to his return, and he did a portion of his recovery work after practice.
Some of his teammates weren’t aware he was available until right before game time.
“I didn’t even know he was playing,” Kevin Love said. “So I asked him before the game what he’d been doing, and he said he’d been running the past 8-10 games. And when he came in here, he gave us such a spark, I told him he really helped us win this game.”
Turiaf played 21 minutes, shot 5-of-5 from the field and recorded 11 points and seven rebounds in his return to the floor—a 102-88 win over Memphis in a pivotal, must-win scenario for the Grizzlies.
When you see Turiaf’s enthusiasm and his activity on the court, you begin to realize just how much of an impact his presence makes on the Wolves. From Day 1, Timberwolves coaches and players have talked about how he’s such a good teammate to have around. He’s full of energy both verbally and physically, and his teammates feed off that energy throughout the game.
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On Wednesday night, Turiaf helped fuel the Wolves through that on-court exuberance. He had a hand in helping contain Zach Randolph to 1-of-8 shooting, and his activity offensively helps the second unit flow in their sets.
“He’s always been active,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I asked him in the fourth quarter how he was doing. He said he was OK, but you know, I wasn’t expecting to play him 21 minutes. But the seemed to handle it pretty good.”
Part of that was due to the work Turiaf put in off the court in preparation of his return. He did his own routines, plus he said he worked closely with Head Video Coordinator Adam Johansen on the court as well as Director Of Player Programs/Scout Calvin Booth in 1-on-1 situations. He did get some 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 in at times, he said, but he hadn’t gone 5-on-5 during his rehab stint.
How’d he feel in the last portion of those 21 minutes?
“Tired, tired, tired,” Turiaf said, smiling.
But he made it through, and it wasn’t necessarily adrenaline. It was the fact that he worked so hard to get back, he told himself that he was going to make the most of his opportunity when he got back on the court.
“I was like, ‘Guys, I haven’t played with you in six weeks, so I’m just going to go out here and have some fun,’” Turiaf said. “I feel like for myself, whenever I play, I don’t worry about the chips that fall. I just try to be me, and that’s how you be the most successful.”
Turiaf has that presence on the court that seems to help keep things fun and loose while also bringing intensity. It’s a part of his game that really benefits the Wolves, as they’ve struggled to keep intensity—particularly on the defensive end—up throughout the year.
And if you break it down a little further, Turiaf’s presence in that second unit might be just as valuable. The Wolves are 13-11 with Turiaf in the lineup this season, but they’re 9-5 overall when he comes off the bench behind starting center Nikola Pekovic or Gorgui Dieng.
That activity, that energy, really helps complement the players around him.
On Wednesday, he showed he was ready to make his return.
“The edge is always going to be there, regardless, because that's what drives me to be a better person and a better basketball player and just work on my craft,” Turiaf said. “When something is taken away from you, you just realize how important it is. You might be able to take something for granted—X, Y and Z, whatever that may be—then you realize 'jeez, I really miss playing with those guys. I really miss going out there and battling and stuff.' So as frustrating as this season was on the basketball court as far as these silly injuries that prevent me from having a full season like I wanted to, it was very uplifting for me to be able to see my teammates wanted me to be out there.”
Turiaf made an impact in his return, and in the end he helped the Wolves pick up a big victory over Memphis squad that needs every win it can down the stretch to ensure a playoff berth.
“He had a lot of energy today,” guard Ricky Rubio said. “It’s nice to have him back.”