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Turiaf seems unlikely to stay

July 11, 2008|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf, a restricted free agent, got the big money he was seeking Thursday, about $17 million over four years.

What remains to be determined is who will be paying him, the Golden State Warriors, who signed Turiaf to an offer sheet, or the Lakers, who have seven days to match that offer.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak had no comment upon receiving the paperwork. But matching the Warriors' offer would seem a stretch for the Lakers, already over the salary cap and at the tipping point for the luxury tax, to more than quintuple the yearly salary of Turiaf, a reserve who averaged 18.7 minutes last year and only 9.8 in the postseason.

The 25-year-old Turiaf's salary last season was $770,610.

"It would be presumptuous for me to say what the Lakers will do," said Mark Bartelstein, Turiaf's agent, "but they do have a logjam of guys and it's tough to keep everybody happy."

For Turiaf, who averaged 6.6 points a game during the regular season, it's about more than just the money, Bartelstein said.

"Being with the Warriors would be a better opportunity from a playing standpoint," he said. "He's a young guy who desperately wants to play a lot of minutes. He wants to find out how good a player he can be. Looking at the Warriors' front line, there's nobody like him."

Three years ago, Turiaf wasn't thinking about a multimillion-dollar contract, wasn't concerned with which team he would be playing for. He had a much more basic goal: staying alive.

A month after being selected by the Lakers in the second round of the 2005 draft with the 37th pick, Turiaf was diagnosed with an enlarged aortic root, requiring open-heart surgery.

He recovered quickly enough to join the Lakers six months later and just completed his third season.

"The Lakers gave him tremendous support during that time," Bartelstein said, "and he will be forever grateful. He is very close to Mitch Kupchak, who has been an unbelievable friend to him, he is a big fan of [Coach] Phil [Jackson], he's a very popular guy in the locker room and he loves it in Los Angeles. That all makes it very difficult to leave, but that being said, he's in the business of basketball and he wants to be the best player he can become."

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steve.springer@latimes.com

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