The past few days have been such a blur for Ronny Turiaf, with the New York Knicks holding him out of the first day of training camp in expectation of a trade that would allow them to add Tyson Chandler. Turiaf was holed up in a hotel, then found out that he was headed to Washington in a three-team deal that was finalized on Saturday afternoon, allowing him to practice with his new team a day later.
It was the second time in the past two seasons that Turiaf was dealt for a player who was considered an upgrade at his position. The Golden State Warriors shipped him in order to sign an all-star in David Lee, and the Knicks wanted the shot-blocking presence of Chandler, who helped Dallas win a championship last June. But Turiaf doesn’t feel as if his previous employers disrespected him.
“I look at it from a positive where I’m with a team that wants me,” he said Sunday. “This is business. Just like a player leaves teams or the team tries to get better. Why would I try to be offended by a team just trying to get better? This is life. There are people that are better than you. People that bring something different to the table. And it’s a matter of people going a different route. I still get my paycheck, last time I checked. So, it’s all good.”
The Wizards were willing to absorb the $4.2 million Turiaf is owed this season because they had the cap space and the need for experience in the front court. Turiaf is entering his seventh season and has career averages of 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. He reached the NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2008 and is known as an aggressive, emotional and high-energy player.
“He just gives us fundamentals, another veteran-type guy. Another physical, up-front, presence-type player,” Coach Flip Saunders said of Turiaf. “He has a very, very high basketball IQ. He really knows how to play as far as getting guys open, how to set screens, knows all the veteran-type moves. He knows how to play, really moves the ball when he gets it. The other guys had good practices because he pushes them and they know that he’s there and he’s there to try and play.”
Andray Blatche compared Turiaf to former Wizard Fabricio Oberto, who made intelligent plays when he was on the floor and helped San Antonio win a title in 2007. When asked what he can provide the Wizards, Turiaf used the same comparison. “Whatever I can do. Just energy, being able to try to lock guys down on the low block, just trying to play the game the right way, trying to get guys easy baskets. I kind of see myself as a Fabricio Oberto-type of player, and I know he had good success here so I’m going to follow in his footsteps.”
Oberto didn’t have much success in Washington, as he dealt with injuries to his hamstring and a heart ailment in his one season, averaging just 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 57 games.
No matter, the 6-foot-9 Turiaf is hoping to leave an impression and perhaps make a difference on a team that won just 23 games last season. “I just see it as me being an addition to a puzzle and I think this puzzle was already in place,” he said. “I know they lost 15 games by three points or less so maybe I can help by bringing a little bit of experience, being out there, the key rebound, key stops, the key steals. ’Cause that’s what I did in the past, from teams that have been all the way to the Finals. I’m not out there to shoot three-pointers. I’m not out there to do crossovers, but I know that when I step on the basketball court, my plus-minus is usually pretty good.”
He also arrives to a place with some familiar faces, since he was with Kevin Seraphin on the French national team last summer and Roger Mason Jr. with the Knicks last season. “We have a relationship that goes beyond the basketball court,” he said. “It’s always fun, when you get traded, you don’t know what to expect, but you have those guys to shelter you from feeling a little bit out of place. It’s definitely a blessing to have those guys out here with me.”
After one practice, Turiaf believes that he won’t have any trouble fitting in. “I’m a guy that loves to have fun, and I love to work hard. I feel like I’m a nice little fish in a nice little aquarium,” he said.