Ronny Turiaf officially joined Golden State tonight when the Lakers declined to match a four-season, $17-million offer from the Warriors. Turiaf will get more playing time next season with the rebuilding Warriors than he would have with the Lakers. GM Mitch Kupchak said tonight he would now pursue Sasha Vujacic full bore. Kupchak had hoped to retain both Turiaf and Vujacic.
Here’s the unedited story I just filed:
Restricted free agent forward-center Ronny Turiaf officially became
a member of the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, his four-season,
$17-million contract simply too rich for the Lakers to match by the 9 p.m.
deadline.The Lakers now will turn their attention to re-signing another
restricted free agent, guard Sasha Vujacic, general manager Mitch Kupchak
said. Kupchak had hoped to retain Turiaf and Vujacic, members of the Lakers’
so-called “Bench Mob.”
But matching the Warriors’ offer sheet to Turiaf would have caused further
salary cap troubles for the Lakers, who are already $4 million over the
luxury tax threshold of $71.150 million. The Lakers have about $75 million
tied up in only 10 players so far.
Despite their obvious financial concerns, letting the 6-foot-10
Turiaf leave for Golden State was not an easy decision for the Lakers.
Kupchak said he met with Turiaf for more than an hour Thursday, describing
their meeting as “emotional.”
“We will miss Ronny,” Kupchak said. “The emotion and the energy he
brought, whether he was playing or not, we’re going to miss that. … There
are emotional ties that go beyond basketball. I think that makes it
difficult (to let Turiaf leave).”
Turiaf averaged career highs of 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18.7
minutes over 78 games, including 21 starts, during his third season with the
Lakers. He averaged only 2.0 points and 1.4 rebounds in 9.8 minutes during
the playoffs, however.
In addition to making more money, Turiaf figures to get a good deal
more playing time with the rebuilding Warriors next season than he would
have with the Lakers. The Warriors’ roster must be remade after losing free
agent Baron Davis to the Clippers.
The Lakers’ roster also will have a slightly different look next
season, what with 7-foot centers Andrew Bynum and Chris Mihm so far making
successful comebacks from significant injuries that sidelined them for much
Kupchak said Bynum was cleared Friday to begin offseason
conditioning and basketball activities after suffering a season-ending left
kneecap injury Jan. 13. Kupchak also said Mihm (right ankle) is working out
daily in his hometown of Austin, Texas.
If Bynum and Mihm return as sound as expected, then the Lakers would
have a logjam up front that would have left Turiaf as the odd man out.
Bynum is expected to be the starting center next season, with Pau Gasol
sliding from center to power forward and Lamar Odom moving to small forward.
The 7-foot Gasol would also serve as Bynum’s top backup with Mihm
also available as a substitute. Odom also would play power forward with
Trevor Ariza, Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Walton serving as his backups.
“He wants to play and seems an opportunity to play with Golden
State,” Kupchak said of Turiaf. “He feels it’s in his best interest to move
on. We’re kind of on the same page, although we’re looking at it from a
In fact, getting a healthy and productive Bynum back in the lineup
would be akin to making a blockbuster free agent signing. After all, the
20-year-old Bynum was in the midst of a breakout season when he was injured,
averaging career highs of 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds in 35 games.
In other news, Walton underwent successful surgery on his right
ankle. Dr. David Thordarson performed the operation, which took about an
hour. Thordarson removed bone spurs and scar tissue and also cleaned up some
The Lakers expect Walton, who averaged 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds
last season, to be recovered fully in time for the start of training camp in
October. Walton played with nagging ankle, hamstring and hip injuries in