Former Gonzaga University men’s basketball star Ronny Turiaf will officially become a Los Angeles Lakers player on Monday.
Turiaf’s agent, Bouna Ndiaye, confirmed late Thursday afternoon that he and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak have agreed on the terms of a contract that will be signed by both parties sometime Monday afternoon.
“Mitch and (Lakers coach) Phil Jackson have already agreed,” Ndiaye told The Spokesman-Review. “We’re expecting a final decision from the big boss, Dr. (Jerry) Buss soon, so Ronny will not play or practice anymore with (the) Yakama (Sun Kings).”
Turiaf, a 6-foot-9 power forward and three-year starter at Gonzaga, has played with Yakama of the Continental Basketball Association for the past 2 1/2 weeks in hopes of showing the Lakers he is capable of playing in the NBA just less than six months after undergoing open-heart surgery.
Kupchak was in Yakima on Tuesday night and watched Turiaf score 21 points in the Sun Kings’ 122-108 win over Sioux Falls. He took Turiaf with him to Portland the following night to watch the Lakers face the Portland Trail Blazers.
Turiaf reportedly sat with Kupchak and Lakers vice president Jim Buss during the Lakers’ 112-103 loss, but according to Ndiaye, was back in Yakima by Thursday evening, packing his bags and cleaning out his apartment.
“He will go to L.A. on Monday morning,” Ndiaye said, “and we expect to sign Monday afternoon.”
Under an agreement made with Kupchak, Ndiaye refused to discuss details of Turiaf’s contract, but did say it would be prorated for the rest of this season. The Lakers, after selecting Turiaf in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft, originally tendered an offer reportedly worth $1 million, but that deal was voided after team doctors discovered his heart condition.
The Lakers did agree to pay for Turiaf’s heart surgery, which – according to the Los Angeles Times – cost more than $100,000.
Turiaf could not be reached for comment Thursday evening, but Ndiaye said he was pleased with the way the Lakers stepped up to support his client by paying his massive medical bills.
“They wouldn’t have had to do that,” he explained, “so there’s a human side there we can only honor and say, ‘Thank you.’ And as soon as Ronny was ready to play again, they worked him out and said they really thought he can help them, so everything has gone really well. We’re really happy about it.”
Kupchak told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that Turiaf’s conditioning is still a factor.
“But he’s gotten better,” Kupchak added. “We do want him on our team. We liked him during the summer when he was healthy, so if he’s healthy today, why wouldn’t we like him today? That is our intention.”
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