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Updated: January 8th, 2014 4:35pm
Notebook: Turiaf is back, providing needed boost for Wolves' bench

Notebook: Turiaf is back, providing needed boost for Wolves' bench

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Ronny Turiaf is just being himself.

An aggressive source of energy on the court and an upbeat, gracious presence off it, the veteran center is equipped to serve a critical stabilizing role for the Minnesota Timberwolves' bench.

To the Wolves' delight, Turiaf is back in the rotation after missing two months of the season with a radial head fracture in his right elbow.

Activated Monday for the first time since suffering the injury on Nov. 1, Turiaf made his return in the Wolves' 126-95 romp against the 76ers. His presence was felt by Minnesota as he picked up nine rebounds and a pair of blocks with the second unit.

Turiaf has downplayed any frustration he dealt with in his 31-game layoff, having overcome far more severe setbacks in his career (he underwent open-heat surgery in 2005 to repair an aortic aneurysm). But Turiaf is excited to finally be back in his in-game element.

"I just have this surplus of energy on a daily basis that I've got to release somehow," Turiaf said. "So it's pretty good for me to just be able to go out there and release it on the basketball court."

Turiaf could be the extra boost the Wolves' bench needs. It's been an up and down season for the reserve unit (Minnesota ranks 29th out of 30 teams in bench scoring, 23.7 points per game). Consistency is the goal and the addition of a keen defensive force, along with the imminent return of swingman Chase Budinger, may be key to bolstering production.

Against Philadelphia, Minnesota's bench tallied 47 points and aided in allowing all five starters to play less than 30 minutes for the first time since the second game of the year. Yes, it was only one game, and yes, it came against the NBA's worst defensive team. But the victory showed a glimpse of the possible new direction the bench could head with both Turiaf and Budinger healthy.

For Turiaf's teammates, the difference the 6-foot-10, 241-pound center makes back in the rotation is obvious.

"You can tell guys feed off that," forward Corey Brewer said of Turiaf's seemingly relentless energy. "He's great for our second unit. He gives us rebounding. He's out there talking. He's the best ... He's blocking shots, he's in his defensive stance, he's there helping other guys."

And that's to say nothing of his moves in support of his teammates.

Video courtesy of C.J. Fogler (@cjzero)

Late start

ESPN's decision to pick up the broadcast of Wednesday's match-up with the Phoenix Suns (20-13) means tip-off has been moved from 7 p.m. to an 8:30 start.

That makes for an alteration to the Wolves' typical home game routine. Shootaround and the team's lunch were pushed back by about an hour.

It also changes up Ricky Rubio's usual pre-game schedule.

"I'm going to have an extra nap," Rubio said, flashing a slight smile.

Love's All-Star status

Kevin Love is on track for the best statistical season of six-year NBA career. He ranks second in the NBA in both points (26.4) and rebounds (13.3), has posted double-doubles in 29 of 33 games and has even put up solid assist numbers (4.2 apg).

Yet, Love still sits on the edge of cracking the NBA All-Star starting lineup.

In the NBA's most recent release of the balloting numbers, Love ranked fourth among frontcourt players in the Western Conference (377,941 votes), trailing behind Kevin Durant (850,728), Dwight Howard (408,623) and Blake Griffin (399,357).

Ultimately, NBA All-Star fan voting is a glorified popularity contest and tends to skew towards players in larger markets. But the Wolves are putting on a strong push to rally their fan base to get Love the votes needed to make the starting lineup, opening up a "Show Kevin Some Love" campaign on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, if Love does not get voted in as a starter, he is a shoo-in to be named an All-Star reserve by the coaches.

Ronny Turiaf put Love's All-Star status best when he said Wednesday, "what more can he do?"

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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