TURKOGLU JOINS CLIPPERS
Already donning a gray Clippers long-sleeve shirt and black team-issued sweatpants, longtime NBA veteran Hedo Turkoglu made more than a week of speculation official.
After working out for the Clippers on Jan. 9, the team finally agreed to terms with the free agent forward Thursday as they prepare to leave for a seven-game east coast road trip.
“It feels great,” Turkoglu said. “I’m really excited, a little bit nervous. It’s a new chapter for me. This is my 14th year and I’m just really happy to be a part of this great organization.”
Turkoglu signed around 9 a.m. Thursday and immediately left for the airport to join the team on its charter headed to New York. He is expected to practice with the Clippers Thursday night and will be available when they take on the Knicks Friday. He will wear jersey No. 8.
“He’s another shooter,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “Sometimes you don’t bring a guy in because someone’s not doing something. It’s because he does something that our other guys do as well. He can space the floor. He’s very skilled and we’d like to take advantage of that.”
Turkoglu, who at one point in his career was considered one of the most versatile players in the league, can handle the ball, play both forward positions, and gives the Clippers yet another option off the bench.
“I assume what I’ve done in the past made [Rivers] think I would be a good fit,” Turkoglu said. “That feeling right now, kind of nervous, butterflies, is there. It’s been wild for me just waiting out there and trying to see what’s going to happen.
“I hope I fit in the best way I can. Playing, not playing, it doesn’t matter. It’s just about being a part of the great things that are going to happen for this organization.”
Turkoglu has averaged 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 897 games. He played with Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick in Orlando, including starting all 24 games for the Magic in their run to the NBA Finals in 2009. Turkoglu’s postseason experience is as much of a part of his appeal as anything. He’s made two conference finals appearances and played in 93 postseason games in addition to nine games in the World Championships with the Turkish national team.
That experience, according to Rivers, makes Turkoglu, who effectively is expected to fill the role that the team envisioned for since-waived Stephen Jackson a month ago, a seamless fit in the locker room.
“Veterans are pretty easy to fit into the locker room,” Rivers said. “Young guys, for the most part, they don’t even know what to do in a locker room. I don’t really have a concern with bringing veterans in.”
Still, Turkoglu has played in just 11 games since the start of the 2012-13 season due to various injuries including a broken hand and a fractured cheekbone. He has not appeared in a game this year and was waived by the Magic, his fifth team, on Jan. 3.
“I was surprised it took this long,” Turkoglu said of his inevitable release from the Magic. “I wish it could have gotten done before, but I always believe something happens for a reason and I guess it was just meant to happen this way.”
Turkoglu doesn’t foresee his lack of recent court time as a problem. He has been working out at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida to stay in shape.
“As a professional it’s always there,” Turkoglu said. “I’ve been trying to keep myself in the best shape I can. Right now the only thing will be trying to fit in with this [group] and get myself into practice and game conditioning. That’s going to really challenge me right now. Hopefully, it won’t take that long and I’ll just try to do whatever it takes to be in the best shape I can.”