Wolves Set To Bring NBA Atmosphere To Montreal

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Wolves Set To Bring NBA Atmosphere To Montreal

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

Email / Twitter

Montreal is a hockey town. If you’re old enough to remember Maurice Richard or use Stanley Cups as your barometer, Montreal is the hockey town. Home to the Canadiens, it’s been the epicenter of the sport’s most storied franchise, one of the sport’s Original Six cathedrals—the Montreal Forum—and host of 24 Stanley Cup celebrations.

But on Sunday, basketball will be the focal point at Bell Centre.

That’s where the Wolves and Celtics will tip off at 5 p.m. CT as part of the 2013 NBA Canada Series. Minnesota is making a trip to a non-NBA city in Canada to play an exhibition contest for the second straight year—the Wolves beat Detroit in Winnipeg in Oct. 2012. This time, they’ll get a new-look Boston club with hopes of helping expand the NBA’s popularity into a new area of the country.

It’s a trip Wolves players said they’re looking forward to taking not only because it’s a city most of them haven’t seen before, but it’s also a chance to reach out to region that doesn’t usually get a chance to see professional hoops in person.

“I’ve heard it’s a pretty cool city,” forward Robbie Hummel said. “But you look at what the NBA is doing. It’s definitely a global game, and they’re trying to expand it even more—which is good.”

Minnesota’s roster makes it a prime organization to make these trips to different areas of the world to try and expand the NBA’s popularity—Commissioner David Stern said as much when he spoke with Timberwolves.com during a trip to Minnesota last winter. The Wolves’ roster represents six countries outside the United States, and two of those players—Ronny Turiaf and Gorgui Dieng—have backgrounds in speaking French. Turiaf, from the Caribbean island of Martinique, is fluent in the language. Dieng also has a background in French.

Turiaf said he has relatives and friends who have lived in Montreal, and he said they loved it. He’s looking forward to visiting and getting to know the city.

“It’s always fun to go somewhere where you are very familiar with the language,” Turiaf said. “For me being here for about 12 years now, everybody seems to forget that English is my second language, you know?...So it’s always exciting to go to a French-speaking province and have some fun a little bit.”

On top of that, Turiaf said it’s great as NBA players to have an opportunity to reach out to new fans or be able to play in front of loyal fans who geographically don’t have the chance to see them play live very often.

As a professional athlete, Turiaf said he’s played in China, France and Italy with NBA initiatives going to different areas of the world. He’s also part of the French National Team, so he does have the chance to play around the globe in that regard, too. But Montreal will be a first.

J.J. Barea said it’s his first time to Montreal, too. This trip is a chance for him to see Quebec and, hopefully, leave a strong impression of Timberwolves basketball.

“Some cities never get to see us up close, and it gives us a chance to go to another city we’ve never been,” Barea said.

Turiaf said he and Dieng recently had a conversation about how they should speak in French to one another in the locker room from time to time. This trip does present an opportunity to do just that.

And if Wolves fans back home would like, Turiaf said he’d offer up his services to help them learn the language a bit, too.

“Just hit me up on Twitter—I’ll do some classes for free,” Turiaf said. “Just ask me for one word a day, and I can do that. Just hit me up on Twitter—that’s my way.”

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