Denton: Has Turk Played His Final Game in Orlando?

By John Denton
April 17, 2013

MIAMI – Because of a thumb injury, a NBA suspension and the Magic’s youth movement, Orlando Magic veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu had to endure what he called "an empty season.’’

Now, the standout’s future with the Magic – a team he helped lead to some of its greatest moments in his two stints in Orlando – is very much up in the air.

Turkoglu, 32, is under contract with the Magic through next season, but it is only partially guaranteed. Because Orlando is in a time of transition with its host of young players, the Magic could seek a buyout of the 13-year NBA veteran later this summer.

Because of the possibility of a buyout, Turkoglu realized on Wednesday that it could have been his last day as a member of the Magic. Turkoglu is realistic about the rebuilding direction of the franchise, but he said he would gladly remain with the Magic if the situation presents itself.

``I always felt comfortable in Orlando and that’s always the city that I want to live when I stop playing,’’ Turkoglu said. ``Orlando is home for me, but this is a new, rebuilding situation. If they want my leadership I would love to be here. If not, I totally understand the situation and the business. I just have to wait and see what happens and do what’s best for me.’’

Turkoglu played just 11 games this season after breaking his left hand in the season opening game and then getting hit with a 20-game suspension for taking a substance banned by the NBA. Turkoglu averaged career lows in points (2.9), rebounds (2.4) and assists (2.1) while shooting a dismal 26.4 percent for the season.

``I worked hard the whole summer, got in great shape and prepared to have a great year and sometimes you just have bad luck and it doesn’t leave you alone,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I had a great training camp and great workouts and then the first game of the season I break my hand. Then, I face the suspension another 20 games. Then, the team is heading in a different direction and the season is over. I look at it pretty much as an empty season because I’ve only played (11) games. This is the lowest amount of games that I’ve played in any career – even when I was overseas.’’

MOE NOT TAKING LOSING LIGHTLY: Before his freshman season at St. John’s, Maurice Harkless said he had never played on a team with a losing record and his early basketball career in high school and AAU was filled with overwhelming success.

So to be on a rebuilding Magic squad that entered Wednesday’s season finale having three times as many games than they won, Harkless admitted that the lack of success has been a shocking jolt to his system.

But Harkless said on Wednesday before the Magic’s regular-season finale that the bitter feelings of losing so much will drive him through his workouts in the summer. He vowed that he is determined to come back next season a dramatically better player so that Orlando never has to endure a season like this again.

``We want to come back next year and win games. Nobody around here takes losing lightly. And at this level if you take losing lightly, you are probably doing the wrong thing,’’ Harkless said. ``It’s definitely going to drive me through the summer to want to do better.’’

Harkless’ season got off to a slow start as he recovered from a sports hernia, but he has come on especially strong over the final three months of the season. He entered Wednesday ranked second among rookies in steals (1.16 spg.), 10th in scoring (8.2 ppg.), seventh in rebounding (4.5 rpg.), eighth in field goal percentage (46.4 percent) and eighth in blocked shots (0.81 spg.).

But because the Magic have had to endure several extended losing streaks, Harkless said there have been few truly memorable moments in his rookie season. He even joked that even thought St. John’s went 13-19 last season during his one year of college, he had never been a part of 60-plus losses in his basketball life.

``Never this bad. We’ve lost more games this season than I’ve ever lost in all my seasons of playing,’’ he said with a laugh. ``I can’t remember a lot of big moments because it’s been such a rough year for us. We just have to continue to learn. We’ve gotten better over the year with the young guys and that’s a good thing.’’

PLAYOFF TIPS: While the Magic won’t be going to the playoffs this spring – snapping the Eastern Conference’s longest playoff streak at six straight seasons – head coach Jacque Vaughn said he’ll be watching the playoffs on a nightly basis.

And even though he won’t he breaking down film or watching games for the purpose of scouting future opponents, Vaughn said he often watches games with a notepad nearby. That way he can jot down Xs and Os and plays that certain teams go to during crunch time in games.

``I will be watching. It’s just my basketball nature to watch for adjustments through the game and through the series, so yes I will be watching,’’ Vaughn said. ``I’ll jot some things down if I see something. It’s going to be some fun playoffs to watch, for sure.’’

Vaughn said he will likely take some time off to recover physically and mentally from the grind of the NBA’s marathon season and all of the travel that it entails. But soon after, he’ll be back on the job trying to figure out ways to help the Magic make some major strides over this offseason. Development of Orlando’s five rookies and three second-year players is a big priority this summer, and Vaughn plans to be as involved as league rules will allow him to be.

``Guys need time off. How long for me personally? I’ll see how my mind feels and how my body feels,’’ he said. ``But the thought of basketball never leaves my mind. That’s just part of the (coaching) job. Different things trigger different thoughts and then if I watch (playoff) basketball, you equate things to your team and you think about how you can get better and how you are going to get there.’’

ETC: Vaughn smiled when told that second-year forward Tobias Harris said recently that the Magic should compete for a playoff slot next season. Vaughn is well aware that the Magic could again be incorporating several young players, so he stayed away from making any playoff guarantees. Said Vaughn: ``I’ll react it next year when I see the team that we have. The good thing is that players have their voices.’’ … Heat superstar forward LeBron James, who beat the Magic with a game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds remaining on March 6, was excused from Wednesday night’s regular-season finale because of personal reasons. Fellow star Dwyane Wade did play on Wednesday night in the Heat’s final tuneup before opening the playoffs this weekend against the Milwaukee Bucks. … Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson missed his only shot and did not score in last Saturday night’s loss to Boston, but Vaughn made a special point to laud him for his vast defensive improvements after the game. Said Vaughn: ``He didn’t miss one pick-and-roll coverage and that was important.’’ … Orlando has been in the playoffs each of the past six seasons. The Magic reached the first round in 2007, the second round in 2008, the NBA Finals in 2009, the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010 and the first round in 2011 and ’12.

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