You know that friend every group seems to have with the infectious existence?
It doesn’t matter what is going on with the group, if that person has an energy about them, it will emanate to everybody else and they’ll adapt to fit said energy. If that infectious friend smiles, everybody around them smiles. If that person belts out a big laugh, everybody starts laughing along. If that person wants to rob a bank, everybody gets their ski masks and starts looking for escape routes.
If Ronny Turiaf wanted to rob a bank last night, there would have been 12,009 people behind him looking up the schematics of the banks and determining how much time they had to raid the main vault. You always have to get out of there in under 90 seconds. That’s just standard operating procedure. After about six weeks off due to a scary knee injury that was diagnosed as a bone bruise, Turiaf made his return to the second unit Wednesday night and helped keep the spark alive with a team that had pride and effort questions floating around it lately.
Turiaf has a spirit about him that really can’t be put into words. Descriptions can’t possibly do it justice. It’s something you have to experience in person to truly bask in the way it makes you smile. Watching him interact with players, coaches, and fans on the bench. When fans are leaving early, he asks them where they’re going. When someone heckles the Wolves from the crowd behind the bench, he’ll look into the crowd and see if he can spot the doubter. When a teammate makes a play, he celebrates. When someone walks to the bench, he daps them. When a call goes against the Wolves, he’s asking for clarification from the refs or explaining why it’s wrong.
He laughs; we laugh. He smiles; we smile. He has an animated conversation with Nikola Pekovic; we want to know what is being said. He brings energy to every aspect of his life. It’s something the Wolves need — this energy. At the end of a long season in which expectations and hopes have once again been trounced, the Wolves have looked like they’re on the brink of imploding. Lackluster efforts have marred some of the past couple games and it’s caused the natives to get restless, and rightfully so.
That didn’t happen Wednesday night when the Wolves helped make the Grizzlies’ path to the playoffs a little harder. The Wolves were able to keep pace with the Grizzlies, who have notoriously been a horrible matchup for the Wolves, in the first quarter. When Turiaf was on the court with the second unit and then some of the starters, it looked like he was unleashing six weeks of having to sit by while his team struggled to stay afloat. He was swatting shots, skying for rebounds, and throwing down dunks. But most importantly, he kept the Wolves engaged the entire time, something much easier for him to do with participating in the product on the court.
I’m not saying had he been healthy all season long the Wolves would have made the playoffs. Who knows how much of an impact he would have had on the playing psyche of this team throughout the course of the season? And maybe Gorgui doesn’t quite develop enough with Ronny around on the court so much? But it seems pretty obvious that a game here, a game there this man could have made a difference in picking up the energy of his teammates. That type of energy is infectious, after all.
Incredibly, the memory of his impact on the game resonated with me much more than Kevin Love and his triple-double. Love has been down lately and it’s something that is both understandable and frustrating to see at the same time. Going against arguably his toughest matchup in Zach Randolph, Love dominated. He posted an incredible triple-double against a frontline of Z-Bo and Marc Gasol, putting up 24 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. It was the third triple dip of the season and his career, overall. The Wolves are 3-0 when he does this.
But Ronny was what I walked away thinking about because of the energy you see him giving at all times.
After the game, Turiaf was blasting some French rap with a Beats Pill, rapping along to the lyrics with still even more energy. He claimed he was tired during his media scrum at his locker but he still had it going. He went to take a shower, walked back with some Bob Marley playing in a much more mellow tone, and told some reporters a story. When he was a kid, he had a hard time waking up to an alarm clock, so his dad would play music for him instead. He would gradually turn it up until it finally woke Turiaf up completely.
Even in that moment of telling the story, the passion this man has for life busted through any calm exterior. He’s someone who appreciates where he is in life and how he got there. It’s a big part of the reason he has the energy to do what he does, whether it works out or not. Spending any time around him or observing him and you just want to smile.