Lakers will let Turiaf leave

Times Staff Writer

Ronny Turiaf has expended his last burst of energy as a Laker.

As expected, General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced Friday the Lakers will not match the four-year, $17-million offer sheet Turiaf signed a week ago with the Golden State Warriors.

“When we looked realistically at how much time Ronny Turiaf will play for us,” Kupchak said, “it’s probably not a number that justifies that kind of financial commitment.”

Because the Lakers are over the trigger point for the luxury tax, they would be assessed an amount equal to any amount spent, an expensive deal for a reserve like Turiaf, who averaged 18.7 minutes in the regular season last year, but only 9.8 in the postseason.


Turiaf, who made $770,610 last season, was not available for comment Friday, but Kupchak, who met with him Thursday, said the 6-10, 250-pound, three-year veteran was at peace with the knowledge he would be heading north.

“The last thing a 25-year-old like Ronny wants to do is sit on the bench,” Kupchak said.

Kupchak estimated Turiaf probably would have logged no more than 10-15 minutes a game had the Lakers retained him.

“Ronny feels strongly that his future is not here in Los Angeles,” Kupchak said. “He feels it’s time to move on and that’s a hard thing for a kid like that to say.”


Turiaf averaged career bests of 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds last season in 78 games. But, with his reduced time in the postseason, he averaged just 2.0 points and 1.4 rebounds.

Against the dominating frontcourt of the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, Turiaf totaled 11 points and four rebounds, none on the offensive boards, in the six games while averaging 10.3 minutes.

Still, Turiaf is about more than numbers. The native of Martinique exuded a contagious passion for the game that could be felt even from the bench.

A crowd favorite at Staples Center, he could turn that passion into a high-energy performance on the floor that often provided a much-needed lift when the Lakers fortunes were sagging.


“We will miss Ronny’s contributions,” Kupchak conceded, “the emotion he brought whether he was playing or not.”

Turiaf may have been a luxury the Lakers were willing to give up, but that does not appear to be the case with their other potentially high-priced restricted free agent, guard Sasha Vujacic. So far, Vujacic, who has switched agents -- from Bill Duffy to Rob Pelinka -- has not come back to the Lakers with an offer sheet. Kupchak has taken the offensive in recent days, negotiating directly to bring Vujacic back.

As for those minutes the Lakers will be missing from Turiaf, Kupchak is confident they can be made up by the return of both starting center Andrew Bynum, who suffered a knee injury that cost him the second half of last season, and Chris Mihm, who was the starting center until an ankle injury caused to him to miss all of the 2006-07 season and most of last year.

Bynum was cleared by his therapist Friday to expand his rehabilitation program to include light work on the court.


“The reports are very positive,” Kupchak said. “Everything is upbeat. We expect Andrew to be able to go full steam, full bore by training camp.”

In other news from the Lakers’ frontcourt, Luke Walton underwent successful surgery on his right ankle to remove bone spurs and scar tissue and clean up cartilage debris. His rehabilitation program is expected to take approximately six weeks.