NBA Saturday: Hedo Turkoglu’s Second Chance
In November, Hedo Turkoglu sat in the Amway Center’s visiting locker room wondering how loudly the Orlando Magic fans would boo him during introductions. His Phoenix Suns teammates joked that it would be loud, but nowhere near as bad as it was in Toronto and Vancouver earlier in the season. Turkoglu shook his head and went on to receive only a light chorus of boos which he deemed a pleasant surprise after the game.
After bolting from the Orlando Magic, flirting with the Portland Trail Blazers, and then struggling with the Toronto Raptors, Turkoglu had become used to being booed on a nightly basis. It seemed like every city’s fan base had some reason or another to heckle him.
Fast forward one month and Turkoglu is receiving the loudest ovation of any player in Orlando. "Welcome Back Hedo!" signs are sprinkled throughout the arena and Magic fans were once again sporting his jersey.
After being traded from the Suns with Jason Richardson and Earl Clark in exchange for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, and Mickael Pietrus, Turkoglu is embracing his fresh start in Orlando. After his difficult stints in Toronto and Phoenix, he can’t believe he’s been given another opportunity in the city where he has had the most success.
"I was just shocked when I first heard that I would be coming back to Orlando," Turkoglu said. "I never thought that I’d be back here. It was just shocking, great news for me and I’m happy to be back. I’m really excited about it and just being together again with all of the guys, after what we’ve done in the past, I’m just happy to be in the good situation that has helped me throughout my career. I’m just looking forward to it."
When he was told the news, Turkoglu admitted that he had to hold back a smile.
"We were in Oklahoma City and the owner, Mr. Sarver, pulled me aside and said, ‘We traded you back to Orlando.’ I was just really shocked and I wasn’t expecting it at all. To be traded and everything, it was just shocking news but I knew I was coming to the right place where I’ve been before and had success," he said.
After allowing Turkoglu to walk as a free agent two years ago, Magic president of basketball operations Otis Smith said he has no regrets with how the situation unfolded.
"I don’t regret breaking up the Finals team," Smith said. "I think it was the right decision at the time for us and where we were going. I don’t think this is admitting any mistakes. At this time, this is the right decision to bring Hedo back considering everything else we did. I know these look like two independent deals and they were, but we tried to get them done together as close as we possibly could. It’s equally important the players that we’re bringing in with him. He’s really ecstatic about the opportunity."
While he’s happy to be back in blue, Turkoglu admits he wishes things would have ended better in Phoenix. The Suns were struggling and he felt he was never able to get on the same page as his teammates.
"I really don’t know. I just tried to do my best wherever I went, but sometimes the chemistry isn’t there. People make changes and they did, but I really don’t understand what happened. I hope people appreciate what I did over there even though it was only a short period of time," Turkoglu said. "The way that I was used, I think I did okay because I was always trying not to compare it to Orlando and always asked to be used for my strengths. But sometimes it doesn’t work like that because the team already has chemistry and it’s hard to change it right away. The way I’ve been used in the past, I think I’ve done okay."
Turkoglu stressed that he didn’t ask to be traded from the Suns and was focused on improving the team in Phoenix before learning of the deal.
"I wasn’t expecting to be traded and I didn’t ask to be traded from Phoenix. I just wanted things to be better and try to work the things out there, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. There have been a lot of changes here and it’s a new start with a lot of new guys. We’re going to try to play together and become a team as quick as we can," he said.
Now, being back in Orlando, Turkoglu expects to revert to his former self that fit in Stan Van Gundy’s system and helped the Magic advance to the Finals in 2009.
"It helps your confidence. All I wanted in the past, where I was, was to be used in things I’m good at with my strengths. I think Stan started all of this and he knows me best so it’s just going to be fun again to be in this situation. Hopefully I’ll play my best again and put myself and the team in a good situation," Turkoglu said. "Orlando is the best for me career-wise because I reached the highest level of my NBA career here. That makes it really special for me. I just want to be used in a way that I’m good at. In the past, it’s always been different for me and I’ve been used differently. But this is a fresh start for me and now I’m looking forward to reaching the level I was at before."
Though he has struggled with his shot early on, Turkoglu has shown glimpses of his old self. Fall away threes, off the backboard passes to Dwight Howard, and other familiar moves have brought Magic fans to their feet just like old times. But this is just the start and Howard expects Turkoglu to develop even more chemistry with his teammates, new and old, the longer he practices and plays with the group.
"We’re just trying to go back to how we played a couple of years ago," Howard said. "He hasn’t played with me in a couple of years so he has to get used to that again. It just takes time. He knows where he’s going to get his shot and he knows where he has to pass the ball. Once we get the timing down, it’s going to be tough with him playing the four or the three or wherever he may be. We just have to keep playing. The more we practice and the more we play, we’re going to get better.
After two frustrating years, Turkoglu couldn’t be happier to be back in Orlando. He’s focused on getting his career back on the right track and taking this team further than he was able to in his first stint. Getting to the Finals won’t cut it anymore, this team needs to win a championship before their window closes. If he’s able to do that in Orlando, he’ll once again be the fan favorite and will never have to worry about being booed in the city again.
Jordan Holding Bobcats Back? The Charlotte Bobcats haven’t lived up to expectations and Larry Brown lost his job as a result. Michael Jordan had Brown’s bags packed after watching the team struggle and got rid of all of his assistants as well.
"I met with Coach Brown two weeks ago about the team’s performance and what we could do to improve it. We met again this morning after practice. The team has clearly not lived up to either of our expectations and we both agreed that a change was necessary," Jordan said in a press release.
But was Brown the problem in Charlotte? League sources say that the finger should be pointed more in Jordan’s direction rather than at the head coach for the Bobcats’ slow start.
His decision making has been questionable and some of the personnel moves have been head scratchers to say the least. Sources say that many within the organization have questioned Jordan’s decisions behind closed doors, but won’t say anything to his face. Some are afraid to lose their job and others don’t want Jordan questioning their loyalty.
If Brown does indeed serve as a "valuable advisor" to Jordan, as the latter has suggested, that may be the best thing for the franchise. Jordan needs someone like Brown, a great basketball mind that isn’t afraid to speak his mind or challenge the former superstar.
In Charlotte and his life, sources say that Jordan’s problems stem from the fact that he has surrounded himself with "yes men" that refuse to tell him no or talk him out of certain decisions.
With only nine wins on the season, the Bobcats have plenty of problems that need to be addressed. Swapping coaches may help, but Jordan and those close to him must make some changes as well.
News and Notes: Here are some items from this week’s news and notes bin.
• Dwight Howard isn’t concerned about the Orlando Magic’s recent losing streak or the adjustment period that the team is going through after acquiring four new players. Instead, he’s begging everyone to be patient and give the Magic time to prove that they’re still an elite team. "We go through this every year. We go through a phase in the season where we lose a lot of games and everybody counts us out. Fans say we aren’t going to make the playoffs and everybody says that we’re done. So what? We’re not playing for nobody but ourselves and we feel like we can win the championship. If we keep playing how we’ve been playing, hard and aggressive every night, things are going to turn around. Everybody has to be patient, from the fans to the media to everybody in the organization. You have to be patient. I promise you if you just remain patient, we’re going to do our job."
• Ron Artest is reiterating his desire to play tight end in the NFL and says that in a perfect world he’d play for the New York Jets. In the past, Artest has told reporters that winning a Super Bowl is on his bucket list so I wouldn’t be surprised if he attempted an NFL career. If anyone else said this, we’d shrug it off. But with Artest, it seems possible and I wouldn’t put a career change past him.
• As Lang Greene touched on earlier this week, Marvin Williams isn’t happy about his recent move to the Atlanta Hawks’ bench. "No. I wasn’t cool with it man," Williams told HOOPSWORLD. "It was something different. I’ve been starting here since my second year here, but it was a choice he (Drew) felt like he had to make and I had to live with it. I don’t know if he’ll ever make that change again and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. But like I said, I’ve been a starter pretty much since I’ve been here but he chose to make that change and I have to live with it."
Enjoy all of the big games on today’s slate and have a very Merry Christmas!