Former Zag Turiaf signs with Heat

Zags Renew Rivalry With UW

Ronny Turiaf wanted a place where he could win, and the Miami Heat wanted some extra inside help.

So the sides turned to each other.Turiaf signed with the Heat on Wednesday, and the 6-foot-10 center is aiming to practice with his new club for the first time on Thursday. 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.

“Welcome aboard,” Heat owner Micky Arison wrote on Twitter, announcing the deal.

Turiaf has appeared in only four games this season, the last of those coming Jan. 1 when he broke his left hand.

“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.

And Turiaf won’t be asked to be an offensive force in Miami, either. He’s scored 20 points only once in his career.

“It’s a good fit,” said Mark Bartelstein, Turiaf’s agent, who noted that Turiaf generated interest from several clubs.

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.