Six months after heart surgery, Turiaf joins Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Ronny Turiaf is back with the Los Angeles Lakers less than six months after having open-heart surgery.

The 23-year-old power forward signed a deal Tuesday.

"Of course, people would have some doubts about whether you could come back from open-heart surgery," he said during a conference call. "There is no worries. I feel comfortable that there is no risk."

Turiaf, a three-year starter at Gonzaga, was a second-round draft pick of the Lakers last June after averaging 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds as a senior last season.

An enlarged aortic root was discovered by the Lakers in a physical exam four weeks after the draft, and Turiaf underwent surgery July 26 to repair the aortic root and preserve his aortic valve.

The contract Turiaf had signed with the Lakers was voided, but the team paid for the surgery.

"My expectation is to practice hard," Turiaf said. "I'm back to being a freshman in college. I'll make those guys' life a little bit tough in practice. I want to go out there and do the dirty work."

The 6-foot-10 Turiaf averaged 13 points and 6.3 rebounds in nine games for the Yakama Sun Kings of the CBA.

Turiaf said he appreciated the outpouring of supportive letters and e-mails he received.

"I want to tell those people it's going to take me a while to respond," he said. "I'm going to try to do it one person at a time. It's going to take me time, but I will do it."

To make room for Turiaf on the 15-man roster, the Lakers waived guard Laron Profit. He had surgery recently to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon and wasn't expected to play again this season.