Turiaf a surprise guest at Lakers training camp

Updated: October 4, 2005, 8:31 PM ET
Associated Press

HONOLULU -- While the Los Angeles Lakers went through their first practice of training camp Tuesday, a familiar face shot around on the side.

Ronny Turiaf was simply taking another step in his recovery from open-heart surgery.

"I'm feeling great. I'm feeling fantastic. I'm alive," Turiaf said. "I'm working out every day. I'm just doing everything I can to be on the basketball court, so I'm doing good."

Turiaf, a 6-foot-9 forward from Gonzaga chosen by the Lakers with the 35th pick in June's NBA draft, underwent surgery July 26 to repair an enlarged aortic root.

His future as a basketball player is undetermined.

"He's our draft choice. He's in his recovery phase," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We want to keep him as close to the organization as possible. He's not under contract. It's really something he does on his own."

Turiaf said he doesn't know when he'll be able to play again. But he does hope to play for the Lakers some day.

"I have to prove to people I still can play because it was a pretty big surgery," he said.

Turiaf's contract with the Lakers was voided when the potentially life-threatening condition was discovered in a post-draft physical, but the team paid for his pre-operation medical costs and the cost of the surgery.

His post-operation costs are being paid through a fund approved by the NCAA and administered by Gonzaga for student-athletes in situations similar to Turiaf's.

"I'm going to do what the doctor tells me to do and I'm not going to do anything stupid because I want to play basketball," he said. "I'm in a position, if I do something stupid, I'm going to have to go back and get cut again and I don't want that to happen. Believe me, I'm not going to do anything stupid."

When asked if it was difficult watching the Lakers work out, Turiaf replied: "What do you think? I'm sitting on the sideline and see the guys practicing and I just want to be out there and help them in any way."

Kupchak said it's possible Turiaf will play this season.

"We're taking it month-by-month," Kupchak said. "He's considerably away from being cleared by doctors. A lot depends on the roster situation and where we are as a team. There are certain scenarios where if our roster dictates it and he's ready to go, it's a possibility."

Said Turiaf: "I want to be back tomorrow."

Lakers spokesman John Black said Turiaf flew in on his own from Spokane, Wash., on Monday and would remain with the team for a few days.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press