The Knicks' season begins in less than a month. We couldn't possibly be more excited — finally, a Knicks team with barely an Isiah Thomas fingerprint on it! — so we'll be counting down the ten most important Knicks twice a week until opening night on October 27. The best sign we can give you: Eddy Curry isn't among the eleven. Today: center Ronny Turiaf.
If the Knicks shock everyone this year and have an out-of-nowhere 50-win season, you are going to see Ronny Turiaf on your televisions almost as much as you will Amar'e Stoudemire. He is without question the most charismatic player on the team; he's the Knicks equivalent of Nick Swisher. Expect him to be the same type of fan favorite.
On a human level, he's far more compelling than Swisher, who smiles and laughs and seems to be having a good time but overall is about as "unconventional" as Rascal Flatts, his favorite band. Turiaf is a fascinating person who speaks five languages (French, English, Spanish, Italian, and Creole), grew up in France, and is close pals with Thierry Henry, star striker for France and, now, the Red Bulls.
He's also quite the chatterbox. His media-day chitchat with Posting and Toasting is a master class in how to become pals with Media Folk without losing your soul. ("If you have guys who understand what the others are thinking, you can almost play basketball with your eyes closed," is our favorite Zen quote.) He has also faced his fair share of adversity, actually going through open-heart surgery right after he was drafted by the Lakers back in 2005. (The experience led him to found one of the more respected charitable organizations in sports.)
As a player, Turiaf is a classic glue guy. He's not particularly skilled offensively, but he rebounds, plays tight defense, and, mostly, hustles like a guy who ... well, like a guy who was once faced with the possibility of never playing basketball again and thus appreciates every second he's on the court. (He also, unlike everybody else on the team, has played in an NBA Finals.) The Knicks have been short on guys like that the last few years, and it's possible, on a team somewhat devoid of bruising bigs, that he may even end up starting. The Knicks will limit his minutes, partly out of necessity, and if Anthony Randolph and Timofey Mozgov emerge, he could be mostly a defensive replacement late in games. If he can block Kobe, he can block anybody.
Turiaf was essentially a throw-in in the David Lee deal, and if this is your throw-in, you're in good shape. He will be fun to watch and even more fun to listen to; he is the type of player for whom it's impossible not to cheer. That, perhaps more than anything else, is what the Knicks have had in such short supply for the last decade. Plus: epic beard.