Turiaf stays close to Lakers
Ronny Turiaf would rather have been running the floor with his new teammates instead of watching from the sideline yesterday as the Los Angeles Lakers went through their first practice of training camp.
But after undergoing open-heart surgery over the summer, the former Gonzaga star isn't rushing a return to the court.
"I'm doing what the doctors tell me to do and I'm not looking to do anything stupid, because I want to play basketball," Turiaf said after the Lakers' practice at the Stan Sheriff Center. "I'm in a position, if I do something stupid I'm going to have to go back and get cut again and I don't want to do that."
After being selected by the Lakers in the second-round of this year's draft, Turiaf discovered he had a heart problem and underwent surgery in late July to repair an enlarged aortic root.
At the time, there didn't seem to be any chance Turiaf would return to the court this season, but recent progress in his recovery has the Lakers believing he could be a part of the team this year.
"Two months ago, there was no way, but now it's a possibility," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "The doctors dictate what he can or can't do."
Turiaf is currently without a contract and is not allowed to participate in practice. Despite that, Turiaf spent part of the practice session shooting on the side and interacting with some of the players.
"I want to be out there and help in any way," Turiaf said. "I'm fortunate enough that I get a chance to be here and to watch and listen to Coach (Phil) Jackson and Coach (Tex) Winters and all those guys and try to gain some information and hopefully use that to my advantage."
Star power: Jackson has enlisted the help of two NBA greats to aid in coaching some of the Lakers' youngsters during training camp.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Scottie Pippen were brought in as special assistants and roamed the sidelines and worked with the players during practice.
Another former Laker star, James Worthy, also stopped by the Stan Sheriff Center yesterday.
Odom still recovering: Versatile guard/forward Lamar Odom was held out of the contact portion of practice yesterday. He's still recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder that he had surgically repaired in April.
"I just have to take my time, get strong, work out twice a day, but just take my time really," Odom said. "I can't really absorb the contact right now the way I would like, too."
Odom missed 18 games for the Lakers last year, but left a good first impression on his coach.
"He looked like he felt pretty comfortable out there," coach Phil Jackson said. "He did a lot of things that I'm very pleased with."
Getting defensive: Although Jackson is best known for the triangle offense, the team figures to spend much of training camp focusing on the other end of the floor. The Lakers gave up an average of 101.7 points per game last year, making defense a point of emphasis in camp.
"In the past (Jackson) worked a lot more on offense," forward Brian Cook said. "The defense we played last year was horrendous, so we just have to make that our first priority, defense and not letting people score."