Overcome by all the playoff specualtion, draft intrigue, and MVP debates of this season, NBA fans have forgotten the nuts-and-bolts that contribute to such an interesting product: the benchwarmers. Each year, TANBR honors these men with its Matt Bullard Memorial NBA Scrub of the Year award, and I'm proud to bestow it upon the Lakers' Ronny Turiaf for his unabashed dancing, his crooked smile, and, of course, his hustle.
En francais, quel est le mot pour "Ballin'"?
In defense of last year's winner Rafael Araujo, I created criteria to judge the value of scrubs, and I'll run down what Turiaf brings to the table in each category.
With the current direction of the L, it's an uphill battle for any American player to win Scrub of the Year. This category can basically be labeled "awkwardness with the rest of the team," and I don't see how anyone from this country can make up that lost ground.
Turiaf was born on the French territory of Martinique in the Caribbean and then moved to France as a teenager. So not only is he awkward on the Lakers, the dude is even an outsider on the French national team. Boris Diaw and Mickael Pietrus are talking about MC Solaar or some shit, and he has to decode what they're saying in Creole first. I imagine that being educated in France also makes one fairly elitist and cultured, and something tells me Andrew Bynum doesn't read Camus.
With all that time on the sidelines, Ronny now does a better Nicholson impression than Nicholson himself. "Heeeere's Kobe!"
My boy graduated (boring) from Gonzaga, which, though it's still in the WCC, can't even be considered a mid-major anymore. That's a top flight basketball school, and ideally the SotY would come from a less notable place. From there though, Turiaf's story gets more exciting. After being drafted in the second round, the Lakers held onto his rights while he had a six-hour open heart surgery to correct an enlarged aortic root. That's right: Ronny Turiaf has so much fucking heart that doctors actually had to take some away for him to be cleared to play basketball. I wouldn't be surprised if they also added some basketball IQ to his brain and injected ice into his veins. Part of his rehab was a stint in the CBA, which is a definite plus.
C. Playing Time
As I wrote in the Araujo column, you want your scrub to take off his warm-ups and mix it up once in a while. It's no fun if he's raising the roof from the pine the whole game. Because of injuries, Turiaf logs almost nineteen minutes a game these days--not really a scrub by any means. Thankfully, he has resumed his rightful role as Energy Guy and Enforcer for the playoffs, scrounging up garbage points and picking up some critical fouls, including the flagrant he got ejected for in game four of the Spurs series.
David Beckham has no idea who that dude is.
D. The Look
Turiaf's hair is taking on a life of its own. He kept the cornrows tight this season, but now the ponytail remainder in the back looks like the stuff hanging from a broken frozen yogurt machine.
In many ways, Turiaf took over the Lakers cheerleading mantle from TANBR fav Mark Madsen. He is fond of mouthing inspirational words to Kobe, and he seems to be buds with Kobes, even though I doubt that Mamba is capable of having a natural, friendly relationship with anyone. That fact alone shows how likable he is, which is one of the most crucial aspects of being a valuable scrub. You have to be able to order game-day meals for your boys while watching second-tier Damon Wayans vehicles. And he's been developing a new move in which, directly to the camera, he holds up his fingers to emphasize how many minutes are left in the game. Pace.
Of course, no discussion of Ronny Turiaf would be complete without mentioning his dancing.
Congratulations, Ronny. You seem like a genuinely affable guy, and if no one else will reward you for that, we will.