Lakers to re-sign Turiaf next week, agent says

Updated: January 13, 2006, 7:01 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Ronny Turiaf is set to join the Los Angeles Lakers less than six months after undergoing open-heart surgery.

Turiaf's agent, Bouna Ndiaye, said by telephone Friday from Paris that he expected the Lakers to sign the 23-year-old power forward early next week.

"The final decision is up to Dr. Buss, but everything is in order for Ronny to join the Lakers," Ndiaye said, referring to Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

"We expect to sign Monday," Ndiaye said. "We've agreed to terms with the Lakers."

Lakers spokesman John Black declined comment.

"He's so excited, he's worked so hard for the last five months," Ndiaye said. "For sure, he's really excited."

Turiaf, a three-year starter at Gonzaga, was a second-round draft pick of the Lakers last June after averaging 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds as a senior last season.

An enlarged aortic root was discovered by the Lakers in a physical exam four weeks after the draft, and Turiaf underwent surgery July 26 to repair the aortic root and preserve his aortic valve.

The contract Turiaf had signed with the Lakers was voided, but the team paid for the surgery.

The 6-foot-10 Turiaf averaged 13 points and 6.3 rebounds in nine games for the Yakima Sun Kings of the CBA. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak traveled to Yakima, Wash., to watch Turiaf play his final CBA game Tuesday night, and he didn't disappoint, getting 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Turiaf attended the Lakers' game in Portland the following night.

"I think he's around 85 percent," Ndiaye said. "He can be 100 percent this year. The guy is a worker, there's no doubt he's a worker. He's going to work all day long. He makes amazing progress every day.

"Now, it is up to the coach. He'll be on the roster. The coach has to call him. That's his job. I'll be in Los Angeles sometime next week, definitely for his first game."

Exactly when Turiaf will be in uniform isn't clear. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said earlier this week he didn't expect Turiaf to make a significant contribution any time soon should he join the team.

"I can't anticipate how a rookie could add a big lift to a team," Jackson said. "He's a kid that has no experience in the game. He's recovering from the open-heart surgery.

"We'll be happy to have him on the team. He's a good spirited guy. He's a Mark Madsen-type of guy who's going to support guys off the bench. If he can contribute 6 or 8 minutes in the first month and help us out, that'll be more than we ask for."

The Lakers will have to waive a player to make room on their 15-man roster for Turiaf. Forward Slava Medvedenko and guard Laron Profit are two possibilities, since both underwent surgery recently and neither is expected to play again this season.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press