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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ronny Turiaf Interview

I recently wrote about my frustrating experience with an Unfinished Ronny Turiaf Interview. I am happy to report that in response to that post Danika Berry informed me that Roxanne Romero no longer is Turiaf's representative, that Turiaf was not aware of the questions that I submitted, that he never turns down an interview request and that he is happy to answer my questions. I would like to thank Ronny Turiaf and Danika Berry for making this interview possible.

Here are the questions that I originally sent to Turiaf (in italics), followed by his answers as emailed to me by Danika Berry:

1. Your comeback from open heart surgery to not only be fully healthy but also to be a productive NBA player has inspired many people. Describe what you are trying to accomplish with your Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation.

a. What I’d like to accomplish is simple: create awareness of heart health. I had no idea that my heart was not healthy. I had no clue. And it is really a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time, that we discovered through an echocardiogram that I had an enlarged aortic root—a life threatening disease. I was on top of the world, when I signed with the Lakers; physically I couldn’t have been better. I had absolutely no worries as I went from one medical exam to another. How many people, kids, do you think are in that position right now, but do not have access to the medical interventions of detection? This important exam changed my life. So what I’d like to accomplish with this partnership between the ASE Foundation and the Heart 2 Heart Foundation, is to educate the health industry and the general public on the your heart. Early detection is the key.

2. You started 21 games for the Lakers team that advanced to the Finals in 2008 and then you signed with Golden State for the 2009 season. When the Lakers won the 2009 championship you must have felt a combination of happiness for your ex-teammates but also perhaps some jealousy--or at least wistfulness--that you could have been a part of that. Describe how you felt about the Lakers winning the title.

a. It’s hard to describe the bond, respect and love I have for that Lakers team. It’s like when your brother does something really great. You were there, you saw the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication—How can you be jealous? —You love him, and you are proud and happy for him. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have been there, but there is a reason for everything. And what I received as a result of playing for the Lakers organization and with those guys—I give them nothing but the props they deserve. And don’t worry, I definitely see rings in my future (big smile).

3. Team captains generally are full-time starters who play heavy minutes but Don Nelson selected you as a Golden State captain even though you do not rank on the top five on the Warriors in minutes played, which indicates that both Nelson and your teammates highly respect you. How did your experiences as a Laker and as a member of the French National Team prepare you for your leadership role with Golden State?

a. I definitely appreciate that Coach sees some type of leadership in me and I feel proud and honored about being chosen to be one of the captains. My father always says, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made--Life’s trials and triumphs, your past and your present rolled into one is what make you special and gifted—and with that comes responsibility. ” WE work hard on the French National team. We’re these young guys who all grew up together and worked hard. We keep giving them hell every year, and we are determined to win, and if we don’t-- it was just great fun to be there—giving all you got. What people talk about is my enthusiasm. I am grateful for the incredible opportunities I have had so far. Basketball--I love the life I have been given (again). And what has prepared me for my leadership role is never forgetting that this is a privilege, an opportunity that comes to but a few. Man, don’t take a second of it for granted and share—make the journey better for some one else along the way. Love what you do, do it to the best of your ability, and things always work out.

4. You ranked fourth in the NBA in blocks per game and third in total blocked shots in 2009. The Warriors are not known as a defensive-minded team but you clearly place an emphasis on that aspect of the game. How is the mindset of a championship team like the Lakers different from the mindset of a younger team like the Warriors that is just fighting to get into the playoffs, particularly in terms of the less glamorous aspects of the game like defense, rebounding, setting screens, etc.?

a. The only difference is in the discipline or the patience necessary to get there. Every game counts: every block, every rebound--every night. Gotta keep your eyes on the prize, baby—every game, every day. And the Lakers have had practice at this mentality. Hey, we are the “warriors,” so we can do it, and we will. Youth, discipline, and focus—we’ve got it all.

5. What are some of the similarities and differences between Phil Jackson and Don Nelson as coaches?

a. Both coaches want the “W.” While one may be holistic, and another is player-by-player, moment-by-moment; both coaches want the win, and give you every opportunity to do what you do best.

6. Kobe Bryant inspires a lot of strong responses from the media and fans. You were his teammate for the first three seasons of your NBA career. Describe Kobe’s leadership style as you experienced it as a young player.

a. He’s just an inspiration to be around –on and off the court. His leadership style is one of modeling—no one works harder. No one practices harder. All you have to do is watch him, and do what he does to prepare and maintain his game—I couldn’t help but get better as I matured as a player around him—who couldn’t?

7. Some members of the media claim that Kobe has changed or evolved but would it be more accurate to say that in the past couple years he simply has been surrounded by better talent and that the newer players respond more positively to how Kobe interacts with them?

a. We’re all changing, man. Life is never just one thing or another. It’s normally a combination of many things—and it’s all good.

8. Everyone likes to compare Kobe and LeBron. You have played with and against Kobe and played against LeBron; as someone who has actually been on the court with both players, how would you compare them in terms of their skill sets and the ways that they impact the game offensively and defensively?

a. You can’t compare the two players. Kobe is simply the best player on the planet! LeBron is trying to get there with his body, his game, his style and his arsenal—and he will. But Kobe will still have been there first. Both LeBron and Kobe as players and you all in the media comparing the two--make the game of basketball the greatest game there is.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:47 PM



At Wednesday, November 04, 2009 9:17:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

wow....good for ronny.

At Thursday, November 05, 2009 1:33:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Ronny seems like a great dude.

By the way, thought you would enjoy this flash back to Michael Lewis's NYT feature on Shane Battier:

"People often say that Kobe Bryant has no weaknesses to his game, but that’s not really true. Before the game, Battier was given his special package of information. “He’s the only player we give it to,” Morey says. “We can give him this fire hose of data and let him sift. Most players are like golfers. You don’t want them swinging while they’re thinking.” The data essentially broke down the floor into many discrete zones and calculated the odds of Bryant making shots from different places on the court, under different degrees of defensive pressure, in different relationships to other players — how well he scored off screens, off pick-and-rolls, off catch-and-shoots and so on....

...The reason the Rockets insist that Battier guard Bryant is his gift for encouraging him into his zones of lowest efficiency. The effect of doing this is astonishing: Bryant doesn’t merely help his team less when Battier guards him than when someone else does. When Bryant is in the game and Battier is on him, the Lakers’ offense is worse than if the N.B.A.’s best player had taken the night off. “The Lakers’ offense should obviously be better with Kobe in,” Morey says. “But if Shane is on him, it isn’t.” A player whom Morey describes as “a marginal N.B.A. athlete” not only guards one of the greatest — and smartest — offensive threats ever to play the game. He renders him a detriment to his team."

You notice no one brings this up when Kobe disproves it emphatically (except me!), but if Kobe has a single bad game, we hear about how great Battier is at defending Kobe.

I have no beef against Battier, but people are so confirmation- biased it slays me. They never see the evidence against what they are saying, they only remember when it is validated.

At Thursday, November 05, 2009 4:26:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Thanks for the interview, David.

At Thursday, November 05, 2009 6:05:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Free Cash Flow:

In the Lakers' 103-102 overtime win versus the Rockets on Wednesday, Kobe had 41 points on 15-30 field goal shooting. All of the defensive attention that Kobe has been attracting has enabled Bynum to have numerous point blank opportunities at the front of the rim--but I am certain that at this very moment some "stat guru" is writing an article "proving" that Bynum is more valuable than Kobe because Bynum has a much higher field goal percentage. Bryant's production and the defensive attention he draws are the primary reasons that the Lakers are 4-1 without Gasol and with Artest and Odom only being sporadically productive. Meanwhile, Trevor Ariza--who was an efficient role player with the Lakers last season--has been thrust into a higher volume shooting role with the Rockets. Ariza shot 5-21 from the field versus the Lakers--with Kobe guarding him much of the game. Granted, this was just one game in an 82 game season, but it is a nice microcosm of the difference between being a role player playing alongside Bryant and being a role player playing against Bryant when your team needs you to be a number one option.

At Thursday, November 05, 2009 9:53:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

wow....Battier gets a packet of information to guard Bryant. Are you serious? Its just basketball. You could give Battier the speed of Gus Williams and hands of Jerry West and he still couldnt guard Bryant. Anyone who says Bryant has weaknesses shouldnt be writing or watching basketball anymore. Thats just ignorance to even make those comments. Morey needs to try and develop a championship team instead of some useless data he gives Battier.

David...the stat gurus are all frauds anyway. Do these people realize how great a play Bryant is? Apparently not. Ariza obviously flourished in the triangle offense, where the design is to get open shots. Rockets fan are delusional (thats what Larry Brown called Ariza w/ the Knicks) to think that Ariza can be a star player.

At Thursday, November 05, 2009 6:52:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

To be fair, Battier does guard Kobe better than just about anyone I can think of right now. Unfortunately, a lot of the shots Kobe made last night - I would say about 10 of his 15 field goals - are simply unstoppable no matter who is guarding him or what 'data' they are using. I'm sure Morey wishes Kobe would actually take the night off one of these days so the Lakers offense could magically become 'better' without him.

At Friday, November 06, 2009 11:15:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Joel....guarding him better than anyone? come on Joel. he still had 41. I know Battier didnt guard him on every offensive series. But all Battier does is put a hand in his face, which is usually a good tactic but Bryant is too good for that. No one can guard Bryant on any scale. I dont care what Morey says or what studies he has done.

At Friday, November 06, 2009 2:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that the players who guard Kobe the best are ones who have that rare combination of length and quickness; Tayshaun Prince is perhaps the best example of this. Thabo Sefolosha made Kobe work for his points during the Lakers' recent game versus OKC. Battier is a hard worker and a good defender but he is simply not athletic enough to stop Kobe.

At Friday, November 06, 2009 6:11:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...


Stopping Kobe is just about impossible for any one player, his game is just too complete for that. Bruce Bowen had a lot more defensive help than Battier and Kobe roasted him on numerous occasions both in the regular season and the playoffs.

I've watched every game Kobe has played against Houston over the last few seasons, and Battier generally does a good job of keeping Kobe off the line and contesting his jumpers. Go back over the years and you'll find quite a few games where Kobe shot low percentages against Houston while taking a lot more shots than usual. Again, by no means am I claiming Battier can 'stop' Kobe, but I'm standing by my statement that he defends him as well as any other current player.

At Friday, November 06, 2009 6:15:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...


Prince is a good call, and Sefolosha has given Kobe some difficulties of late by bothering his handle and forcing turnovers. However, I don't think either of them has come any closer to 'stopping' Kobe than Battier - apart from the 2004 Finals when Prince had the Wallaces backing him up.

At Saturday, November 07, 2009 1:07:00 AM, Anonymous elm 0x00 said...

Kobe with another 40 point game against Memphis. He shot 19-30, and had 4 freethrows.

He shows that he's still the best player.

The guy can turn it on at will, and he's doing it mostly in the post as well.

I think some people think that because he defers with Gasol on the team, that he is incapable of being a beast. He's showing that he can be one whenever he wants.

It seems that the offseason of rest and workout with Hakeem has helped him tremendously.

At Saturday, November 07, 2009 5:32:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

ELM 0X00:

Kobe carried the Lakers to the Western Conference playoffs with Kwame Brown starting at center, Smush Parker starting at pg and Luke Walton starting at small forward; last year, two-time MVP Steve Nash missed the playoffs despite having Amare Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal, Leandro Barbosa and Matt Barnes! No matter what else Kobe accomplishes in his career, making it to the Western Conference playoffs with the ragtag crew that the Lakers had in 2006 and 2007 should be the first line on his Hall of Fame resume (I am only half-joking when I say that).

Pau Gasol has yet to play this season and the Lakers were also missing Andrew Bynum versus the Grizzlies. D.J. Mbenga started at center, Lamar Odom shot 1-6 from the field and Josh Powell played 23 minutes--but the Lakers won going away because Kobe simply took over.

During Cleveland's win over New York on Friday night, Jeff Van Gundy said that stats accumulated in the fourth quarters of blowout games should not count. He was joking (I think) but the larger point is that all statistics should be understood in proper context--points scored in garbage time and/or against second stringers are not the same as points scored down the stretch of a close game versus an elite team.

Kobe's scoring average went down last season because he made a conscious effort to involve Gasol in the offense--but whenever the Lakers needed for Kobe to get 35, 40 or more, he could do that. Most significantly, in the playoffs against elite competition the Lakers' opponents had the choice of either doubling Kobe and letting his teammates shoot wide open shots or single covering Kobe and watching him go off. Kobe has no skill set weaknesses, so he can carve up even top level teams with his midrange jumper (something that LeBron still cannot do on a consistent basis, though he has improved his three point shot and his free throw shooting).

The Gasol-less Lakers are tied for first in the West with a 5-1 record and Kobe is leading the league in scoring at 34.5 ppg while shooting .481 from the field. He has had exactly 41 points in three of the last four games--all wins--and has shot .500 or better from the field in each of those 41 point games. Mike Wilbon has repeatedly made the asinine assertion that the Lakers are better off when Kobe shoots less frequently but the Lakers are now 68-31 during Kobe's 99 career 40-plus point games.

At Monday, November 09, 2009 2:25:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

to shoot 30 shoots and only miss 11is so incredible. that is ususally added with about 10-15 free throws. it doesnt get anymore efficient than that. those are great centers numbers.


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