Not long after he agreed to a contract with the Clippers during the offseason, backup power forward Ronny Turiaf got a phone call from coach Vinny Del Negro. Then another. Then another. Then another. It was something new and different for Turiaf.
“He was checking on me and I was, like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool,’” Turiaf said the other day. “When I was at the Olympics, when I was overseas, he was checking on me. That’s different. My subconscious was telling me, ‘I think you made the right choice to go play for a coach who actually cares for his players.’
“That’s pretty neat.”
Turiaf said Del Negro compares favorable with Phil Jackson, his former coach with the Lakers. Turiaf filled a similar role with the Lakers, including as an equally energtic member of their second unit from 2005-06 to 2007-08.
“He just tells me to be me,” Turiaf said of Del Negro. “It’s been a while since I was told to just be me. I think it probably goes back to the Lakers days, when Phil used to tell me, ‘Ronny, just go out there and play. I trust your basketball IQ, I trust your basketball knowledge to make plays for us.’
“Coach (Del Negro) knows I can play, so he’s definitely encouraging me to do that. … He’s a player’s coach. I knew he was somebody who was easily accessible. I was very surprised. He called me on numerous occasions during the summer to check on me. Even after I signed.”