Timberwolves backup center Ronny Turiaf returned to action Monday in Philadelphia after more than two months away and contributed nine rebounds, rim protection and a share-the-ball mentality on a night when he attempted only one shot but supplied all those aforementioned things and something more:
Perhaps a little bit of soul for a second unit in need of help.
The Wolves reserves scored only five points in two of their past three games before Monday’s 31-point rout and then delivered 47 points against a 76ers team that had just ended a six-game West Coast trip by winning its past four games.
That kind of production as well as a 16-point lead going into the second half allowed Wolves coach Rick Adelman to play all of his five starters less than 30 minutes, the first time that’s happened since the season’s second game.
That also happens to be the last time Turiaf played a game before fracturing a small bone that connects to his elbow in a nasty fall during a victory over Oklahoma City on Nov. 1.
It’s probably just a coincidence, but there’s no question the Wolves hope the return from injury of both Turiaf and Chase Budinger will transform a team that has relied so much on its starters.
“He’s another guy who has played seven, eight years in this league,” Wolves reserve point guard J.J. Barea said, referring to Turiaf. “He’s smart. He knows his role. He brings energy, defense, protects the rim. He’s a smart player on offense, and Coach has confidence in him. That’s going to help. The first two games we had him, we were doing pretty good. I’m happy to have him back.”
Budinger — out all season so far after undergoing his second knee surgery in 11 months in October — is expected to return any game.
“I’m pretty excited about that,” Turiaf said. “Chase gives us another option, another weapon, another guy who can shoot and spread the floor.
“We spent a lot of time when we were hurt together just talking about the stuff that we will be able to do out there. So I can’t wait for him to join us.”
If the Wolves make another move to improve their bench beyond waiting for Turiaf and Budinger to reach full health, it’ll probably be through a trade. They had a window to tweak their roster by waiving either Robbie Hummel or A.J. Price by 4 p.m. Monday before each player’s non-guaranteed contract becomes guaranteed Friday for the rest of the season.
That deadline came and went without the Wolves making a move, decisions that give both Price and Hummel peace of mind on Wednesday that they didn’t have the day before.
Turiaf played more than 22 minutes in his debut. Most of that time was spent playing with a second unit that also includes Barea, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham and Hummel, but Turiaf played the final few minutes of the third quarter alongside the other four starters after he was subbed into the game for center Nikola Pekovic.
“It was good to mix it up a little bit,” Turiaf said. “It’s good to be out there [with the starters] a little bit, get some reps in game situations and understand where they like the ball and how we can do stuff out there.
“We all have something to bring to the table. That makes us a pretty good basketball squad.”
Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad scored 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting and had seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in nearly 26 minutes during his D-League debut for the Iowa Energy on Tuesday at the league’s annual Showcase in Reno, Nev.