Turiaf Can’t Play Without a Visa

Times Staff Writer

Laker rookie Ronny Turiaf is not able to play because of a work-visa issue and probably will be out for another week, his agent said Friday.

Turiaf, who was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique and has French citizenship, signed with the Lakers on Jan. 17 and has practiced with the team but is not eligible to play until he receives a U.S. work visa, agent Bouna Ndiaye said.

Laker lawyers have been working with U.S. citizenship and immigration officials to try to expedite the process, Ndiaye said.


“He has to be cleared by immigration,” Ndiaye said. “I think he will be cleared in a week.”

Turiaf, 23, played four years at Gonzaga with a student visa before being drafted by the Lakers. He underwent open-heart surgery in July and began his rehabilitation a few months later by playing nine games with the CBA’s Yakama (Wash.) Sun Kings before signing with the Lakers.

“We’re in the process of converting his student visa into a work visa,” Laker spokesman John Black said. “It’s pretty much a standard thing. It takes time to do the paperwork.”

It was unclear if Turiaf would be able to collect payment for the CBA games in which he played.


After a closer look at the Fort Worth Flyers’ schedule, Laker Coach Phil Jackson changed his mind.

This month, Jackson said Turiaf probably would be sent to the Lakers’ affiliate in the Development League during a seven-game Laker trip that begins Sunday in Detroit.


“They have, like, one game in a two-week period of time, which makes absolutely no sense at all for anybody on our team to go down there while we’re out playing,” Jackson said. “The schedules do not conform. We’ll look at it some other time.”

Five Lakers are eligible to play in the Development League: second-year guard Sasha Vujacic and rookies Andrew Bynum, Von Wafer, Devin Green and Turiaf.

The Development League regular season ends April 9.


Jackson, a jazz aficionado, took a final look at Bryant’s 81-point outburst by relating a story about jazz legends Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

“They were in a session and Coltrane did one of his things, he went off on a 25-minute riff while everybody else listened to him play his sax,” Jackson said. “And he apologized to Miles after it was over, and he said he just picked it up and just kept on playing. And Miles Davis said put the blankety thing down. You’ve got to stop.”

And that relates to Bryant’s game ... how?

“I said shooting’s like that too,” Jackson said. “It gets addictive and it’s like, you know, I’ll just take this shot and so he’s going to take it.”