When Ronny Turiaf heard that Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green was going to undergo surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and would miss the entire season, he immediately tried to find a way to reach out to him.
Turiaf’s NBA career was delayed when the Los Angeles Lakers discovered an enlarged aortic root in his heart after taking him with the 37th pick in the 2005 NBA draft. Turiaf underwent a surgical procedure shortly thereafter and was back on the court, playing for the Lakers about six months later.
“I know what he’s going through right now,” Turiaf said of Green, the former Georgetown star from Hyattsville. “Basically, I don’t feel too comfortable, remembering that time in my life. That wasn’t a pleasant time at all. I know that 24 to 48 hours after I learned about my condition, I was in a funk. I will do whatever I can to talk to him, because I know for myself, I had [former NBA player] Fred Hoiberg to guide me through it.”
Green’s condition was discovered during his training camp physical and he is scheduled to have surgery on Jan. 9 at the Cleveland Clinic. The Celtics were forced to void the $9 million contract they gave Green, but the team will retain his rights as a restricted free agent whenever he returns.
Turiaf has counseled other NBA players who have dealt with heart ailments before, forming a friendship with former Wizard Etan Thomas, who had surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve in 2007. Although he was initially disappointed when his condition was found six years ago, Turiaf realizes that it probably saved his life – and given him a chance to play in the NBA the past six years.
“Hell yeah, I cheated life. I almost died,” Turiaf said. “That’s what I tell people all the time. I’m like, regardless of what happened in life, I’m good. I’m blessed. I’m in a situation where I get to be able to take care of my family financially. I’m able to pay for my little sister to go to a private school. I get to be able to pay for my mother’s rent and all that stuff. So I think after you get close to going upstairs and seeing the great architect, you realize that life is really a good one. You have to be grateful for what you have and not necessarily see what you don’t have.”