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Sekou Smith

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Hedo Turkoglu feels at home now more than ever after being traded back to the Magic.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Christmas comes early for Turkoglu with return to Orlando


Posted Dec 21 2010 10:42AM

ATLANTA -- Hedo Turkoglu didn't even bother trying to hide his smile.

When he cut through that training room door Monday night, his first game back with the Orlando Magic after a weekend trade that landed him back with the team he never wanted to leave, it was obvious the man was back in his element.

"I get my same spot in the locker room and that [number] 15 [jersey] back on and everything," Turkoglu joked to the assembled media hovering around him. "The trade was shocking. But in the end, I'm happy because I'm coming back to the right situation for my game. I've never been a selfish guy. I'm a team guy and I try to do things that help the team with my passing. In the pick and roll I'm a creatable guy. I can make the decisions and I'm comfortable with the ball in my hands."

As far as early Christmas presents go, Turkoglu couldn't have asked for a better one to be dropped in his hands. Magic general manager Otis Smith, the same man that wouldn't pay Turkoglu his $50 million asking price on a long-term deal after Turkoglu helped the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, rescued him from a dead end situation in Phoenix.

Turkoglu struggled in his role with the Suns much the way he did in Toronto during the 2009-10 season, his first away from the comfort zone he'd found during his five seasons (from 2004-09) in Orlando alongside Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis.

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Instead of kicking back Saturday with family in Phoenix, Turkoglu will be back on familiar ground. The Magic host the Boston Celtics in one of five Christmas Day showcase games.

That doesn't mean Turkoglu will ease right back into the point forward role he occupied when he left the Magic. So much has changed in the 17 months since he departed. Rashard Lewis was traded to Washington for Gilbert Arenas in a separate weekend deal. Howard and Nelson are both used to working without Turkoglu now as well, adding another wrinkle to an intriguing situation.

The trade that sent Turkoglu and Jason Richardson back East wasn't just as much about bringing him "home" to Orlando as much as it was about shipping Vince Carter, his replacement 17 months ago, out of town. Richardson was thriving in Phoenix and leading the Suns in scoring while Turkgolu was struggling to find his footing.

Both Richardson and Turkoglu were in the starting lineup in the new-look Magic's debut, a disjointed 91-81 loss to the Southeast Division rival Hawks. And Magic coach Stan Van Gundy indicated that they'll both likely stay there for the time being. However, Van Gundy stopped short saying that Turkgolu would be able to reprise his role as the Magic's primary late-game facilitator late in games, a role he relished in previous stint with the Magic.

"I don't know about that," Van Gundy said. "We will certainly put the ball in his hands on pick and rolls. But will we do it as much as we did before, probably not, quite honestly, because Jason's a scorer and Gilbert's a scorer and a guy who will run a lot of pick and rolls, so it will be split up a lot more.

"Our guys are going to have to have some patience with that, too. I told them as much. We've got three guys now who ... Gilbert was the leading scorer in Washington, Jason was the leading scorer in Phoenix, Dwight was the leading scorer here and Jameer is the second leading scorer and then we've got Turk who wants the ball in his hands.

"Look, it's going to get split up a little bit more. And I don't think anybody, including Dwight, is going to get as many shots they were getting up until now. What it comes down to guys is having a little bit of patience until we figure it all out. But what it really comes down to is what's everybody's bottom line? If its winning, we'll work it all out. If it's themselves, how many shots, how many touches, how many minutes ... then we'll be in trouble."

Turkgolu isn't back to chase individual glory or any of the other things that might have factored into his departure from this team and what he called the "ideal" situation for his game and career.

His struggles in Toronto and even briefly in Phoenix no doubt made it easier for him to return a bit humbled by the process certainly more appreciative of the monumental success the Magic had, albeit with a much different cast of characters then they'll trot out on the floor now.

After hearing from Suns managing partner Robert Sarver that he had been traded back to the Magic, Turkoglu said he had to process that information quickly before speaking to Smith, who welcomed Turkoglu back with open arms.

"He made the joke that it took him a year and half to get me back here," Turkoglu said of the conversation he and Smith had. "I told him not to bring history back and let's just move on. Sometimes you have to look at it from their side, too. It wasn't that he didn't like me or didn't want to sign me, but things just didn't work out at the time."

Things are working out fine for Turkoglu now, and just in time for Christmas.

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and the author of NBA.com's Hang Time blog. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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