Lakers Unleash ‘Junkyard Dog’

Times Staff Writer

Ronny Turiaf understands that being drafted in the second round offers no guarantees in the NBA.

The Lakers took the gregarious power forward as the 37th overall selection, but all it means now is that they have an interest in him.

But then, there were no guarantees either when Turiaf left his family on the tiny Caribbean island of Martinique as a teenager to embark on a basketball odyssey that carried him to Paris and Spokane, Wash.

So it’s no wonder that the 6-foot-10, 249-pound former Gonzaga star is willing to show the Lakers that he’ll do the dirty work the team often didn’t do last season.


“I know they’re going to ask me to play defense, be physical and rebound the ball, block shots and be an energy guy,” Turiaf said. “That’s what I like. It’s what I enjoy doing. My role is to be the junkyard dog.”

Turiaf played on the same Paris high school team as San Antonio Spur point guard Tony Parker and was discovered by Gonzaga coaches, who lured him to the Pacific Northwest. At Gonzaga, he became the West Coast Conference player of the year and helped make the Bulldogs a household name in college basketball.

Now he is a rookie, one who will have to battle Brian Cook, Slava Medvedenko and Brian Grant for a roster spot.

“I don’t have any pressure on myself,” Turiaf said. “I have confidence in my capabilities. I know what I can do and can’t do.

“The Lakers drafted me because they had some interest in me. If they want to sign me, I’m more than willing to put my name on the line.”

Laker assistant coach Kurt Rambis, who is running the club’s entry in the Summer Pro League, says Turiaf has been impressive in workouts this week.

“He has done everything that you expect somebody to bring to the table,” Rambis said. “He has size, strength and a tremendous knowledge of the game. He’s out there encouraging teammates and he works hard on both ends of the floor.

“He’s shown the things needed to make it in this league. I think L.A. is going to love him.”


Andrew Bynum’s introduction to pro basketball has already provided some rough moments and there figure to be many more when the club’s first-round pick makes his debut tonight at the Pyramid in the Long Beach.

Learning the complicated triangle offense is a challenge for many veteran players, much less a 17-year-old out of high school. But it hasn’t dimmed the teenager’s confidence.

“I’m not really nervous,” said Bynum, taken 10th overall, “I struggled yesterday and I struggled a lot during the second workout, but I didn’t let it get to me because today I came out and redeemed myself.”

Bynum says he figures to get picked on by opposing players and expects that he won’t get many calls from the referees.

Rambis said patience was the watchword.

“He’s held his own here, but he definitely still needs to work and needs to develop his skills out there on the court,” Rambis said. “Clearly he’s not going to go out and start playing 40 minutes in the NBA.”


Von Wafer, the Lakers’ other second-round pick, knows he’s a longshot to make the roster, but the guard said being in the NBA was a fresh start after two unfulfilling years at Florida State.

Wafer led the Seminoles in scoring last season but was suspended twice for academic reasons and clashed with Coach Leonard Hamilton.

Known for his shooting, the 6-foot-5 Wafer averaged 12.5 points but was benched late in the season.

Wafer thought about transferring to another school but didn’t want to sit out a year. So he left for the NBA after his sophomore year.

“So much of what I worked hard to build was being torn down by an image that took a turn for the worse,” he said.