Lakers let Turiaf go to Warriors, will look to Bynum in middle

Updated: July 19, 2008, 12:22 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- With great reluctance, the Los Angeles Lakers decided at Friday's deadline they wouldn't match Golden State's offer for Ronny Turiaf, meaning the former second-round draft choice will move up the California coast to play for the Warriors.

ESPN.com's J.A. Andande first reported the Lakers would not match the offer.

"There are emotional ties with Ronny that go beyond basketball," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on a conference call. "I think that makes it difficult. I think organizations that draft players who turn out to be good players, it's hard for them to let go of those players. And if you know Ronny, you know he's a special kid."

The Warriors signed Turiaf, a restricted free agent, to a four-year, $17 million offer sheet last week. By rule, the Lakers had seven days to decide whether to match it. The three-year veteran from Gonzaga averaged 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 78 games with the Western Conference champions last season, making 21 starts.

The Lakers played much of last season without starting center Andrew Bynum, giving Turiaf the opportunity for more playing time than he would have had otherwise. But, Kupchak said, Bynum is expected to be healthy when training camp begins in early October, and Turiaf's opportunities figured to be diminished significantly.

Kupchak said Bynum has been in New York and underwent physical therapy in 19 of the last 21 days and has been cleared to work out and play.

"He's basically on his own to begin conditioning and basketball activity, starting today," Kupchak said. "It's a process. Based on what he did last year, I would expect him to come in in mid-September basically in great shape. I know that's his goal. He's coming back this weekend, we're going to meet with him Monday. He will go to Atlanta late next week to begin his training for the upcoming season."

With frontcourt players like Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic, Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza and Chris Mihm on the roster, that wouldn't appear to leave much playing time for Turiaf. Kupchak said he believes that Mihm, who missed most of the last two seasons with ankle problems, will also be fully healthy at the start of training camp.

"We will miss Ronny, we will miss his contributions on and off the court, the emotion and the energy he brought, whether he's playing or not," Kupchak said.

Kupchak said he met with Turiaf for about an hour Thursday.

"It was a very emotional meeting because he loves the city, he loves the organization, there are certain bonds here," Kupchak said. "He feels it's in his best interests to move on. The last thing you want is a young player like Ronny no matter what he's being paid is being on the bench at 25 years old and not playing.

"We discussed it yesterday, he wants to play, and sees an opportunity to play in Golden State at least twofold what he can play here."

The Warriors certainly have a much greater need for big men than the Lakers.

Kupchak said the Lakers will now focus on re-signing guard Sasha Vujacic, another restricted free agent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.