PARIS (AP) — New York center Ronny Turiaf is confident the summer arrival of star forward Amar’e Stoudemire and other new players will help the Knicks get back to the NBA playoffs.
Turiaf will play in front of his home crowd on Wednesday night when the Knicks face the Minnesota Timberwolves in Paris in the second game of their European preseason tour.
Turiaf, a former Lakers and Golden State Warriors player, was traded to the Knicks during the offseason along with Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike. He has high expectations about his relationship with Stoudemire, who came to the Knicks from the Phoenix Suns.
“My job is to make things easier for Stoudemire,” the 27-year-old Frenchman said. “He doesn’t have to defend. He just has to get the rebounds and take advantage of his huge attacking potential while I’m blocking the big guys for him.”
Stoudemire scored 32 points in his first game with New York on Sunday, a 125-113 win over Italian club Olimpia Milano.
“We could speak for hours about Stoudemire’s talent,” Turiaf told reporters on Tuesday. “He can score in the paint, with both hands, with lay-ups. He’s got the whole package.”
The Knicks won the last of their two NBA titles in 1973 and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2004. They failed to sign LeBron James this summer but are confident they can start winning again with their renewed roster.
“We don’t want to lose time,” said Turiaf, a member of the French national team. “We want to achieve something big immediately. We have to aim for the moon to land on the stars and we work hard for this.”
Following their win in Milano, the Knicks are expecting to be given a stronger challenge by the Timberwolves, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 111-92 on Monday in London.
“Hopefully it will be a good game for both teams. They are a young team like us, lot of things to be discovered so it will be interesting to see what they put on the floor,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Turiaf will start the game in Paris but is likely to face competition from rookie Timofey Mozgov for a starting role this season.
“I prefer to be on the court near the end, when you need to take a decisive rebound or make a block, rather than starting a game,” Turiaf said.
Mozgof signed a three-year contract with New York, while the Knicks also added Raymond Felton from Charlotte.
“We have players who can understand them well,” Turiaf said. “We are not the most beautiful and the strongest players, but we can play together well. And this is what makes a good team. This team will be dangerous and we will all try to help Stoudemire reach the top of his game.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.