Wolves Wednesday: Turiaf thrilled to be back
MINNEAPOLIS — The appreciation and candor continue to ooze forth from Ronny Turiaf’s candid persona.
The backup Timberwolves center, who spent more than two frustrating months trying to come back from an elbow injury that kept him out of 31 games, returned to the lineup Monday against Philadelphia. Preparing for his second contest since then Wednesday, he couldn’t have been more thrilled to be back in the fold.
"It’s not necessarily eager; I just, like, have this surplus of energy on a daily basis that I’ve got to release somehow," Turiaf said after the team’s morning shootaround ahead of hosting the Phoenix Suns. "So it’s pretty good for me to just be able to go out there and release it on the basketball court."
Turiaf did so vehemently Monday at Philadelphia, pulling down nine rebounds and blocking two shots in 22 minutes, 34 seconds of floor time.
He’d taken a hard fall against Oklahoma City — in Minnesota’s second game of the season — and suffered a radial head fracture in his right elbow. Turiaf slowly returned to full-practice capacity within the past two weeks and said he "felt good" during his first game action since Nov. 1.
Fellow reserve A.J. Price playfully mocked Turiaf’s perceivable lack of wind early on against the 76ers, whom the Timberwolves beat by 31 and allowed coach Rick Adelman to clear the bench in the fourth quarter.
"(Price) was laughing at me, because he told me I was tired from (going) down and back, and I looked at him and said ‘Yeah, but this is different than practicing 4-on-4, 5-on-5,’" smiled Turiaf, who signed a two-year free-agent deal with Minnesota this offseason. "So, I was laughing at him, too, in the fourth quarter when we was a little tired."
It’s the same fun-loving, emotionally-driven Turiaf that’s been present since he entered the league in 2005 with the Lakers. That came after a scary heart condition that required surgery, so a little bone crack in his arm isn’t too much of a concern, he’s said.
Turiaf provides his teammates an emotional lift, too, coach Rick Adelman said.
"He’s a leader," Adelman said. "One of the things that he does so well on the floor, especially defensively, is he communicates. He talks, and he knows where he should be all the time. I think he’s gonna be a real positive addition."
Wednesday brings a face-to-face reunion with Suns power forward Channing Frye, who came back from a heart ailment of his own — this one a virus — to join Phoenix’s starting lineup this season.
While Frye worked his way back to playing shape, he’d receive an encouraging text message from Turiaf every once in a while. Former Timberwolves guard Fred Hoiberg had the same operation as Turiaf more than eight years ago, and the two communicated frequently throughout their joint recovery process.
"I know how much it means to have a little conversation from someone who went through similar issues," Turiaf said. "It’s good to see (Frye) back. I’m going to talk a little bit of crap to him today, and hopefully he doesn’t have that good of a game, though. But it’s good to see him back for sure."
Teammate Kevin Love said the same thing about Turiaf.
"Off the court, he brings so much energy, and then having him back on it is good for us, too, because he cleans so much up for us in that second unit as far as the post goes," Love said.
Price, Hummel stick around: Just after 4 p.m. Tuesday, Robbie Hummel’s mother gave him an unexpected phone call and told him congratulations. "I was like, ‘For what?’" Hummel said.
Turns out Hummel had no idea the deadline for him to be waived or else have his contract guaranteed on Friday through season’s end was 4 p.m. Tuesday. Mom knew, though, and her 24-year-old son was happy to learn he’d be sticking around the Twin Cities, at least for the immediate future.
All NBA contracts become guaranteed Friday, and players must clear waivers before they’re off a team’s roster. That deadline was 4 p.m. CT Thursday.
"I didn’t realize the 48-hour waiver rule," said Hummel, who’s played 11.1 minutes per game and averages 2.9 points and 2.7 rebounds. "I guess I found out through her, and it was a good surprise."
Price was in the same situation with his league-minimum deal for this year. He wasn’t let go Tuesday, either.
The fifth-year veteran has contributed more from a bench leadership standpoint than he has actual minutes — he’s appeared in just 14 games, almost exclusively in garbage time.
But Hummel, a rookie, said he and the rest of the team are happy he’s still around. "He’s great in practice," Hummel said. "He’s a great locker room guy. I think everybody is excited that he’s still with the team, and I think he’ll be able to contribute down the road whether it’s with an injury or that’s in practice."
Of course, either player could still be cut. But both are now sure to receive a paycheck for the rest of the season.
And their coach said he expects a lot in return.
"I think they deserve to be on the team," Adelman said. "That’s the bottom line. I think they both have terrific attitudes. They really play hard in practice. They’ll do whatever you ask them to do."
Love for Kevin: Love’s best All-Star lobbying comes with a basketball in his hands.
The Timberwolves’ business office is trying to take care of the rest.
The team is on a mission to see its star power forward voted into the 2014 NBA All-Star Game as a starter. The latest fan ballots show Love is 20,000 votes behind the Cllippers’ Blake Griffin for the last of three starting frontcourt spots, so Minnesota has put together several promotions to encourage followers to vote for Love via social media, the Internet or text message.
The campaign includes a Love-signed memorabilia giveaway Wednesday and several in-arena, online and broadcast promotions.
Currently the league’s No. 2 scorer and rebounder, Love’s virtually a shoo-in to play in his third All-Star Game. But starting for the first time would mean something special, he said.
"To be an All-Star starter, you kind of have the best of both worlds," said Love, who’s on pace to become just the 12th NBA player to finish in the league’s top three in both scoring and rebounding. "The fans are who you play for."
Said point guard Ricky Rubio: "He deserves it. He’s playing awesome. It’ s something that everybody is saying. He should be an All-Star."
Change in routine: Thanks to ESPN, Rubio was able to get some added shuteye Wednesday.
The network picked up the Suns contest, moving its start time from the usual 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and adding it to its usually Wednesday night NBA doubleheader. That meant a later morning shootaround, later lunch and some extra time between midday activities and pregame warm-ups.
"I’m going to have an extra nap," Rubio joked.
Wednesday’s game is the first of four remaining ESPN-televised contests planned this season. The network is also scheduled to carry the Timberwolves’ games at New Orleans Feb. 7, at home against Indiana Feb. 19 and at home against New York March 5.
Surprising Suns: Sitting in the Western Conference’s No. 7 playoff spot and carrying a 20-13 record into Wednesday’s clash, Phoenix sure has turned some heads around the NBA.
Love’s is one of them.
"You look at the players they have on their team and they have very good personnel, but I didn’t necessarily think that with a first year coach, some of the personnel they have that they’d be able to be in the playoff picture right now," Love said. "But with that said, they’re right ahead of us, and we’re on the outside looking in."
Rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek has coaxed a balanced, flowing effort stemming from Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Both guards came into Wednesday averaging 5.8 assists per game, and Dragic’s 18.9 points per game are seventh among NBA point guards.
The Suns rank first in the league with 19.2 fast-break points per game.
"You look at their team, and (Hornacek) has really taken the talent that he has," Adelman said. "They look like they really enjoy playing together. . . . They’re a team that — you guys have watched us — they can hurt us, because they really get out, and they really push it."
Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter