Turiaf excited to join young Timberwolves

Ronny Turiaf has traded elbows with Nikola Pekovic in the post

and chased Ricky Rubio around the court in international

competition long enough.

The eight-year veteran said he’s happy to join the Minnesota

Timberwolves, where he will serve as a mentor and an extra big man

off the bench to help prepare the younger players for what everyone

expects will be a run at the franchise’s first playoff berth since

2004.

”It’s a great thing for me to fit in. I’m tired of playing

against Ricky in Spain. It’s good to be on his good side,” Turiaf

said on Wednesday, drawing chuckles from the crowd. ”I’m actually

really being serious about it.”

Turiaf has averaged 4.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in

his career and played just over 10 minutes per game last season for

the Clippers. But when Flip Saunders went looking for a veteran big

man to beef up the team’s bench, he immediately thought of Turiaf.

Saunders coached Turiaf in Washington two years ago, and grew to

admire not only his tenacity on the defensive end, but also the

tireless outreach in the community.

”He brings that passion, he brings that enthusiasm, he brings

what you need, the glue, for a team to have success,” Saunders

said.

The team held Turiaf’s introductory press conference on the

University of Minnesota campus at the Ronald McDonald House, which

houses sick children who are being treated at the hospital nearby.

The Timberwolves renovated a basketball court in the building last

season and named it in honor of late team executive Conrad Smith.

After the press conference, Turiaf played with about a dozen

children on the court, playfully swatting away their shot

attempts.

With the Timberwolves, Turiaf will be counted on to give them

some toughness when they face some of the bigger teams in the

league. The Wolves have Pekovic starting at center and drafted

Louisville shot-blocker Gorgui Dieng in the first round in June,

but protecting the rim is one of the team’s biggest issues going

into training camp, which opens on Oct. 1.

Turiaf has averaged 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes over his career

and has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best low-post scorers in

the game.

”I’m so excited about joining this team because of what they

already are and what I can bring to the table,” Turiaf said.

”It’s this kid excitement, this pureness about really wanting to

accomplish something special.”

Exactly how much playing time he sees probably relies a lot on

the development of Dieng as a viable backup to Pekovic. But even if

Dieng proves to be ready to handle the role, it’s likely that

Turiaf will be a big reason for it. He has played in the playoffs

in six of his eight seasons, some experience that could come in

handy for a team that has a three-man core – Rubio, Pekovic and

Kevin Love – that has never appeared in the postseason.

”I’m a proven player. I know that I can pass and play

defense,” Turiaf said. ”I can just do whatever needs to be done

to win the game. This team has special talent. If I can help people

get better, just by giving advice and sharing what I’ve seen …

I’m all about winning.”

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