Laker draft pick Ronny Turiaf will undergo open-heart surgery to repair an enlarged aortic root and will sit out one season, if not longer, as he recuperates from a condition that could have taken his life if not diagnosed.
....Turiaf, who grew up on the Caribbean island of Martinique and played high school basketball in Paris, had tests done several years ago in France that showed an abnormality of the heart, but was cleared to play. Tests done last month at the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago also presented an abnormality, but he was cleared there as well.
"Naturally, we wish that they would have seen it the way our doctors found it," Laker spokesman John Black said Thursday. "It would have made a difference, but we don't want to point fingers. We feel fortunate that it was found when it was. It probably saved the kid's life."
Despite the disappointment over his condition, Turiaf said he was grateful it was diagnosed in time.
"I feel lucky because I don't want to die," he said.
Turiaf agreed to a two-year contract with the Lakers, which would have been worth about $1 million if he played for both seasons.
Black said the team's position on the Turiaf's contract is that it is void because he failed to pass the physical, but the league will have final say.The Lakers want to pay for Turiaf's surgery, if the league approves, Black said.
Turiaf struck an optimistic tone when asked about his prospects for returning to the NBA following surgery.
"Hopefully the doctors do a good job — I'm sure they will — to fix me up," he said. "I'm going to be back. ... And if not, I'm smart, I have a degree in sports management and communications. I'll make money no matter what."