Injured Turiaf backing his French team

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Much to his personal disappointment, Ronny Turiaf is merely a spectator at EuroBasket in Lithuania. He doesn't plan to be when the New York Knicks open training camp next month -- if the NBA lockout comes to a speedy end.

Turiaf is sitting out France's bid to win its first European title -- as well as qualifying for the 2012 Olympic Games -- after sustaining a broken hand three weeks ago in a tune-up tournament in London.

His loyalty to his national team means he has remained with Les Bleus as their cheerleader-in-chief and unofficial assistant coach. And although FIBA Europe regulations prohibit any roster changes, Turiaf might even be able to put in some practice here after confirming that he is ahead of schedule in his return from injury.

"I should be ready to go in a week or so," he said. "It's just a matter of waiting for the fracture to be fully healed before I step back into the basketball court.

"In the meantime, I've been staying in shape with my personal trainer. I have no worries about being ready for training camp if it starts on time."

The French, who have already secured a spot in the quarterfinals, defend their perfect record Friday against their Lithuanian hosts. And the coaching staff of Les Bleus has readily acknowledged the contribution that Turiaf has made in passing on his experience of international play to the side's younger players, including Blazers forward Nicolas Batum and Wizards center Kevin Seraphin.

That's been satisfying, he declared. But it's not quite like being on the court with a team that will be a major contender when the final shakeup begins next week in Kaunas.

"It's very frustrating," Turiaf admitted. "It was definitely a blow for me to miss this but I know something good is going to happen in the long run.

"So I can't wait to see what we do."

Halfway across the world from where the negotiations have been taking place, the EuroBasket chapter of the National Basketball Players Association has been following the latest round of talks between the union and league with some interest.

There has been some comparing of notes around the breakfast table at the hotel that is the base for most of the countries that remain here. However, being involved in these championships has, Turiaf stated, focused the players' minds on achieving more immediate gains.

"I'm not there in the meetings. I don't know what's being said," he declared.

"So I'm just taking in this tournament, one day at a time, while we're all waiting official word from either party to see if they come to an agreement. I have no doubt that one will be reached."

Mark Woods is a freelance writer based in Scotland whose work appears regularly in British publications.