Lakers notes: McKie trying to find role
BY ROSS SILER, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated:10/06/2006 10:48:43 PM PDT
EL SEGUNDO - While the Lakers scrimmaged at the end of practice Friday, Aaron McKie sat on a giant inflatable ball on the sidelines, a sore back leaving him watching instead of playing once again.
There is no doubt that the Lakers benefit from the presence and professionalism of McKie, who is entering his 13th season and turned 34 on Monday. The issue is whether McKie is healthy enough to make a contribution on the court.
He played in only 14 games in his first season with the Lakers, suffering a torn left quadriceps tendon that wasn't fully healed until this summer. McKie has a guaranteed contract for this season paying him $2.5 million.
Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis was asked whether McKie - the oldest player on the roster - was a known commodity to the coaching staff, given how many games he missed last season.
"We have a lot of faith in his leadership capabilities," Rambis said. "He did a great job when he wasn't playing or when he was dealing with injuries last year in working with the younger guys and showing them how to be professional and how to train and how to keep working hard. He was fantastic in those areas.
"In terms of playing out there on the court, he shows all those good instincts that good defensive players have. He understands this offense. Now it's just physically whether or not he'll be able to keep up with everything that's going on and compete for a spot."
McKie was signed to a two-year, $5million contract in August 2005 after he was waived in a luxury-tax saving move by Philadelphia, which still owes him more than $12.5 million through the 2007-08 season.
The Lakers originally hoped that McKie would be their finisher, on the court for crucial late-game situations. But he averaged only 8.6 minutes in the games he played and had only threebaskets all season.
After undergoing open heart surgery in July 2005, forward Ronny Turiaf attended the first part of training camp last October in Honolulu. He was around the team, but not quite on it, and returned to Spokane, Wash., to continue his comeback.
Turiaf made it back to the NBA only four months later and played in 23games for the Lakers. Now he is happily taking part in his first full camp - calling it a "dream for me" - and trying to win a spot in the rotation.
"I definitely feel part of this team, feel part of what we're trying to accomplish here," Turiaf said. "I'm trying to have some fun and play hard, play tough defense, and hopefully when I'm on the court, the offense runs smoothly."
The Lakers have put an emphasis on defense, which plays to Turiaf's strengths. He said he wanted to be a communicator on the floor as well as an "enforcer," setting screens, boxing out and doing the dirty work not in the box score.
"I know for a fact my teammates will appreciate the work that I do," Turiaf said.
He played this summer for the French national team, which finished fifth at the World Championships in Japan. It was another step in coming back from a surgery that once was feared could end his career.
"I regained my confidence in myself," Turiaf said. "Everybody was kind of doubting me as far as me making the team and all that stuff. They thought, `Ronny Turiaf hasn't played many games this year, we don't know what he can do.' So I went out there with a chip on my shoulder to show them that I could do it."