Ronny Turiaf signs with Heat

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Ronny Turiaf talked with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, and got recruiting calls from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

The Miami Heat put on the press, and Turiaf was impressed.

"I was actually quite shocked, to tell you the truth," Turiaf said. "I was not expecting Dwyane and LeBron to reach out to me."

They did, and the Heat recruiting pitch worked. Turiaf signed with the Heat on Wednesday, and the 6-foot-10 center is expected to practice with his new club for the first time on Thursday. His season was interrupted after four games by a broken left hand, which Turiaf said is now "fantastic ... ready to go."

Turiaf appeared with his new team at a Miami Heat Charitable Event on Wednesday night, and said he still couldn't believe how much interest the Heat showed in him for the stretch run.

"To put it into words would be a disservice to those guys," Turiaf told The Associated Press. "This is awesome, to be surrounded by future Hall of Famers, by guys that know how to play basketball, by guys that have been successful everywhere they went. It's a definite pleasure. It makes it very, very easy for a guy like me to step into this situation. I've always prided myself on making life easy for everybody else and that's what I will try to do here."

Turiaf has played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, New York and Washington so far in his seven-year pro career, and was waived by Denver earlier this month after being included in a three-team trade between the Wizards, Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers.

"We are very happy to be able to add an experienced veteran center at this stage of the season," Heat president Pat Riley said. "Ronny's energy will be a great addition and bolster our front line."

The Heat have been looking for inside help for several weeks. Joel Anthony -- a key defender for the Heat -- ranks 37th in scoring (3.2) and 36th in rebounding (4.2) among centers who have started at least 10 games this season. Miami's backups at center, Dexter Pittman and Eddy Curry, have combined to score 62 points in 36 appearances this year.

Miami does not typically look for offensive production from the center spot anyway -- the Heat rank third in the NBA in scoring -- but has been seeking additional depth and had a roster spot free after Mickell Gladness' 10-day contract expired earlier this month.

"Even going back to when he was drafted, he was high on our board," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We always liked the skill set that he brought. He fits the Miami Heat fabric in terms of high motor, toughness, makes effort plays, makes multiple efforts as a defender. But he has an offensive skill set and to be able to get someone of his caliber at this stage of the season, it's a little bit of a surprise."

Wade said he hadn't been involved in recruiting anyone to Miami since talking to Shane Battier last summer.

He said he expects this move to work out as well as the Battier one is for the Heat.

"High energy, great character and gives us another body and another presence in the middle, which we're going to need going into these playoffs," Wade said. "It fits a lot of the M.O. on our team. I think he's going to fit right in. For us, it was a no-brainer. ... Once he gets into Miami Heat shape, gets those playoff legs ready, I think he's going to be a great fit for us."

Added James: "His energy fits what we do defensively. His passion, he fits our DNA. We're happy to have him onboard."

Turiaf has averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in his career. He was the Knicks' starting center in last year's playoffs, when they were swept out of the first round by the Boston Celtics.

Turiaf was a college star at Gonzaga and was taken by the Lakers in the second round of the 2005 draft, before a physical revealed his heart had an abnormality -- an enlarged aortic root that required seven hours of open-heart surgery. His first contract with the Lakers was voided, but the team paid for his surgery and signed him again less than six months later.

Turiaf got close to a championship with the Lakers when they fell to Boston in six games in 2008, and said he's still driven by being that close to a title and seeing the ring slip away -- an obvious parallel to Miami's story line this season, after the Heat fell to Dallas in last season's finals.

"I look at this more as a second chance," Turiaf said. "I got close once with the Los Angeles Lakers. I still have that in the back of my mind. I still think about it quite often. I think it's a second chance to go after it and I think it's a perfect situation. For them to show me the desire to have me on the basketball squad, that definitely goes a long way. I will do whatever I can to make them look good."