By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Jul 5 2009 4:26PM
Make no mistake -- Hedo Turkoglu will take the money from the Toronto Raptors. But his representative said Saturday afternoon that he will understand if the Portland Trail Blazers are ticked off about it.
Lon Babby, Turkoglu's attorney, held a late afternoon conference call Saturday afternoon to explain why Turkoglu left the Blazers at the altar, holding an offer in excess of $10 million per season in their hands, to take Toronto's five-year proposal, which Babby said was for $53 million, infuriating the Blazers and leaving them scrambling to find other free agent options. The deal can't be signed until the league sets its salary cap number for the 2009-10 season next week.
"This has been a difficult process for Hedo and his family," Babby said Saturday. "He gave Portland a commitment that he would sign there and he went to Portland with every intention of doing so...Portland, both the team and the city, did everything we asked them to do, and it's perfectly understandabe if they feel a bit aggrieved."
Turkoglu had been expected to come to terms quickly with the Blazers, after spending Wednesday night with Portland Coach Nate McMillan in Orlando, then flying to Portland for meetings with team management Thursday and Friday. The Raptors, who wanted Turkoglu as well, had been reluctant to renounce their rights to the numerous free agents on their team that would have been necessary to clear enough room under the salary cap to exceed Portland's offer.
But Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo changed his mind. Friday morning, Babby said, the Raptors called him and said they were ready to do whatever they had to to get Turkoglu signed. That will mean renouncing their rights to several players, including free agents Shawn Marion, Anthony Parker and Carlos Delfino.
"I said 'we've gone pretty far along with Portland,' and he said, 'well, you have to hear me out,'" Babby said.
After Babby relayed Toronto's proposal to Turkoglu, the 30-year-old began having second thoughts about Portland. He and his wife both enjoy Toronto, a city with both a large international population and a sizeable Turkish community, both of which appeal to the Istanbul-raised Turkoglu, who's played all over the world since he was a teenager. And the Raptors have a roster full of international players, including Spanish point guard Jose Calderon, Italian center Andrea Bargnani, Croatian guard Roko Ukic and U.S.-born players Chris Bosh, Reggie Evans and rookie DeMar DeRozan.
If everything (read: money) was more or less equal, or, in this case, greater, Turkoglu was inclined to pick Toronto.
"It's hard to pinpoint a turning point," Babby said. "Toronto kind of jumped in at the last minute with a proposal that gave him pause -- not so much from a financial standpoint, but ... they hadn't made a formal offer until then. I had to communicate that to Hedo, and that gave him pause."
At that point, the Blazers didn't stand in Turkoglu's way. They weren't willing to clear more cap room to make a bigger offer, feeling $50 million to sign with an up-and-coming team that won 54 games last season should be more than enough.
Though Portland still has $8 million in cap room, the Blazers may not opt again to throw it all at one player as they planned to do with Turkoglu. They felt Turkoglu was a perfect fit for their team: a veteran forward would could shoot the ball, spread the floor and handle end-of-game situations with the ball in his hands. Now that he's out of their plans, the Blazers, according to a source, may opt for signing a couple of veterans to smaller deals instead of trying to make another big splash -- though they do have interest in Knicks restricted free agent forward David Lee.
The Raptors have to renounce Marion, Parker and Delfino because, even though they are free agents, they still count against the team's cap, at varying amounts depending on how long they've been in the league. Free agents stay on their team's cap until their team either re-signs them, or renounces them, or the player signs with another team. Renouncing means that the team can no longer exceed the cap to re-sign the player, or use any cap exceptions like the mid-level exception to re-sign them. The players could conceivably be re-signed by their old team, but would have to be signed using existing cap room or minimum salary amounts, and in this case, Toronto's plan is to use all of its cap room (about $10 million) on Turkoglu.
Toronto could also execute a sign-and-trade deal with Turkoglu's soon-to-be old team, the Orlando Magic, using the renounced players. The purpose would be two-fold: first, by making it a sign and trade, where Turkoglu would technically re-sign first with the Magic, who would then trade him to the Raptors, Turkoglu would get an extra year's salary, six years instead of five, and at higher yearly raises than he would if he just signed a free agent deal with Toronto. Second, a trade would allow Orlando to get some players from Toronto rather than losing Turkoglu for nothing.
But Orlando general manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that he would not take part in any sign-and-trade deals with Toronto for Turkoglu.
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