Wolves plan to let Ronny Turiaf mentor young big men

BY foxsports • September 18, 2013

This is the eighth in a 17-part series profiling each player on the Timberwolves' roster leading up to training camp.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: The latest stop on the Ronny Turiaf worldwide tour.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound big man from Martinique sure fits the status of a journeyman, joining his seventh team in nine years. Turiaf offers every franchise he joins the same repertoire: energetic defense, the occasional rebound or bucket inside, and a generally fun guy to have around the building.

That's exactly what the Timberwolves sought when they signed him as an unrestricted free agent this past summer.

A year with the Los Angeles Clippers was Turiaf's first full, healthy season since 2010-11. He brings a bundle of energy to the Twin Cities and helps firm up a frontcourt full of otherwise young talent.

2012-13 stats: 1.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 10.8 MPG

2013 salary: $1.6 million (approximate)

Last year: The Clippers didn't ask much of Turiaf, whom they landed as a free agent following a 2011-12 season in which he spent time in Washington and won a championship with the Heat. He appeared in 65 games and played more than 20 minutes just once.

But Turiaf has never been one to log big minutes. He averages just 16.8 per game for his career.

Instead, he's found a niche that allows him to come off the bench and give premier centers -- Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh -- a break. He's best in a defensive post role, exhibiting keen upper-body strength and enough athleticism to slide in the way of top scoring threats.

It doesn't sound like much, but the 30-year-old Turiaf continues to work his way into shorter-term contracts. While front-office executives of course focus on what he brings to the court, his reputation as a stellar citizen and teammate are also attractive assets.

One of his primary personal objectives will be to remain healthy; he missed most of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season with a broken hand. He also required open-heart surgery the summer before he entered the NBA for an enlarged aortic root but hasn't experienced any lingering problems from that scare.

There's not a whole lot of money to be made as a "locker room guy" in professional sports anymore. Turiaf remains an exemplary exception.

This year: And that's why Turiaf finds himself up north.

With his name still floating in the free-agent market, Minnesota already had its backup for elite-caliber center Nikola Pekovic. The Timberwolves drafted Louisville shot-swatter Gorgui Dieng in the first round with plans to cultivate him behind Pekovic.

That pushed attention toward re-signing the Montenegrin behemoth, who at the time was a restricted free agent at least entertaining the notion of offers from other teams -- none came, and the Timberwolves brought him back for a max deal.

But even with those negotiations ongoing, members of the front office determined bringing in a guy like Turiaf was important enough to commit $3.2 million to him over the next two seasons. He provides an insurance policy against Dieng being pressured to develop too fast and is hoped to be a guiding hand for a talented but young core.

Pekovic is 27 years old, All-Star power forward Kevin Love is 24, and point guard Ricky Rubio is 22. Turiaf is the second-longest tenured player on the Timberwolves' revamped roster, trailing only nine-year veteran and fellow free-agent get Kevin Martin.

It's assumed Turiaf will have an easy time mentoring Dieng, who also grew up in a foreign country, and fellow first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad, who has run into a bit of trouble since emerging as the country's top high school player two years ago.

Even a guy like Love can learn a thing or two from an elder statesman who's played in two NBA Finals and experienced nearly 1/3 of the NBA's team environments.

Turiaf is also an option to spell Love at the four. He manned that position often as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers and has played in modern-day NBA systems where center and power forward are almost synonymous.

From the front office: "Whether he plays one minute or whether he plays 39, 40 minutes, when you talk to him before or after the game, you're gonna see the same guy, with a smile on his face and the same passion. So to bring him into this mix almost as both a player and as a mentoring role, I think is going to be very positive." -- Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations

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