Ronny Turiaf saw his first action in more than two months on Monday night, returning to the Minnesota Timberwolves lineup to take on the Philadelphia 76ers after missing 31 games with a fractured right elbow. This, of course, is good news for those of us who fancy ourselves true appreciators of the fine art of dance:
(Please feel free to watch that all day, with my compliments.)
Lest we underrate the 30-year-old reserve center, though, his return had a noteworthy on-court impact, too. Turiaf missed his lone field goal attempt and finished scoreless, but he grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots in 22 1/2 minutes of burn — more than he'd seen total in his first two appearances of the season before his injury — as the Wolves blew the doors off the 76ers, 126-95, to set a new season-high point total and snap Philadelphia's four-game winning streak.
Minnesota outscored Philly by nine points in Turiaf's time on the court, which might not seem noteworthy on a night where all five of Rick Adelman's starters were +19 or better and the game was effectively about two minutes into the second half, but matters because of the manner of the backup big man's contributions and what they could portend for a Wolves team sitting at .500 and two games out of a playoff spot after 34 games. From a great column on why Turiaf matters by Britt Robson of MinnPost:
[...] Turiaf provided a tone of infectious energy and diligence at the defensive end. I won’t pretend he inspired the three steals and accurate shooting that came through Alexey Shved like a snort of cocaine, but [Dante] Cunningham, a renowned mother hen on defense, certainly looked more comfortable and narrowly focused knowing an energetic rim protector was beside him. Moreover, Turiaf’s length, aggression and veteran’s presence in the middle enabled both Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic to rest on the bench as the scrubs doubled the three-point lead the Wolves had eked out in the first quarter.
[...] On a team that is dead-last in protecting the rim (yielding the highest opponents’ field goal percentage on shots from 5 feet or less), Turiaf is an aggressive shot blocker who five years ago led the NBA in block percentage and finished fourth in blocks per game. If he gets in rhythm and stays healthy, he not only can extend the rotation and provide depth but also alter the character of the team’s second-unit defense.
In addition, on a roster with precious little playoff experience, Turiaf has been to the postseason six times with four different teams. On a team that has tended to be overwhelmed by big moments, he has a chance to intensify the passion and lighten the perspective.
Not a savior, not by a longshot. But the Wolves are at least a little more resilient with his big heart and good-natured ferocity back in action.
His teammates certainly seemed thrilled to see the vibrant big man back on the court:
— Kevin Love (@kevinlove) January 7, 2014
And they're certainly not alone. Ronny Turiaf is the best. Here's hoping he can stay healthy and keep making a difference for the Wolves' second unit; goodness knows he's got plenty of sideline celebrating to make up after all those weeks in a suit.
Video via the great @cjzero.
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