Denton: Turk Eager to Prove He Can Still Be Productive


By John Denton
October 18, 2012

ORLANDO – While most of his Orlando Magic teammates had already left to hit the showers or chow down on the post-practice spread, forward Hedo Turkoglu stayed out on the floor after Thursday’s practice, hoisting one jumper after another while working with assistant coach James Borrego.

Such is the drill now for the 33-year-old Turkoglu. Rather than doing less to preserve his body as he heads into his 13th NBA season, Turkoglu is trying to do more in order to continue being a productive player.

While arriving early and staying late might not have been one of Turkoglu’s trademarks early in his career, he’s found that that’s the best tact for him now that he’s late in his career. So far, the work that Turkoglu has put in this preseason has drawn rave reviews from new Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn and his play on the court has been solid.

``I’m feeling good and I’ve been in good shape. I have to prepare myself,’’ Turkoglu said as sweat dripped down his face following the post-practice shooting drills. ``I really don’t know how many minutes I’m going to play or what situation I’m going to be in, but I still have to be ready. Doing this stuff is something I do every day to keep myself in the best situation. I have to do this kind of stuff to keep myself at a certain level. I’ve been doing extra lifting so I can keep myself in this good situation.’’

Turkoglu has been in mostly good situations during his seven years and two stints in Orlando, leading the Magic to the playoffs five times. One of the most versatile 6-10 players in the league, Turkoglu’s career blossomed in Orlando where he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2008 and he helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals in 2009.

There’s not a day that goes by, Turkoglu said, that he doesn’t thank the heavens for his good fortune to play in the NBA since arriving from Turkey in 2000. Along the way, he’s played for the Kings, Spurs, Raptors, Suns and Magic (twice), and it’s the stays in Orlando that he’s cherished the most. He said the love that he’s received from the Magic through the years ranks as one of the highlights of his career.

``I’m blessed being in the situation that I am. Every day I pray to God and I’m happy to be in this situation,’’ he said. ``I just have to take advantage of it the best that I can. I still enjoy what I’m doing and I still have to do my best. Playing as hard as I can is what has kept me in this league as long as I have been here. I always compete every night and do my best and I think that’s why I have been one of the fan’s favorites here in Orlando. They like what I do on the court and I’m going to keep doing that. I want to be the guy people look to as a person and a player too.’’

Vaughn has leaned on veterans such as Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis so far, and that group has played well despite Orlando’s 0-4 record in the exhibition season. The Magic hope to the first win of the Vaughn era Friday night when they host the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center.

Arron Afflalo, whom the Magic acquired from Denver in August, returned to practice on a limited basis after missing 10 days with a hamstring strain. Affalo, the likely starter at shooting guard for the Magic, said he’s making steady progress and he hopes to be recovered enough to play on Sunday when the Magic host the San Antonio Spurs.

``I did some halfcourt stuff, weight-training and conditioning today, so I’m getting pretty close,’’ Afflalo said. ``I’ll stay on the timetable of the coaching staff and do whatever they see as best fit. But I’m starting to feel healthy. I’ll definitely be ready by Sunday, but it’s up to them.’’

Turkoglu has made the decision as to just how much he will play this season easier on the coaching staff so far by excelling this preseason. He’s averaged 8.3 points and 3.7 assists in limited minutes in three games, highlighted by his 13-point effort against Philadelphia and his six-assist night versus Cleveland.

Vaughn has been impressed with Turkoglu’s versatility and has experimented with him at power forward and small forward thus far. He’s also been pleased to see just how much the veteran has left in the tank in this training camp.

``I’ve been extremely pleased with Hedo. He’s really giving effort, he’s been very attentive and he’s played well,’’ Vaughn gushed. ``He’s done a lot of good things. Last game I experimented with him at (power forward) and he’s a guy who can handle the basketball and make plays. He just knows how to play the game of basketball.’’ Vaughn has also gotten to know Turkoglu’s good-natured side off the court. He is a favorite of all of his teammates because of his mild-mannered persona and his playful nature. He doesn’t have an enemy in the league and nearly all of his former coaches in the NBA – from Rick Adelman to Gregg Popovich to Brian Hill – always greet him warmly along the sideline when facing the Magic.

``He’s a lovable guy, he’s very funny and guys love being around him,’’ Vaughn said. ``He has a pretty enjoyable (personality), but at the same time he knows how to play basketball.’’

Turkoglu averaged 10.8 points and 10.9 points a game over his last two seasons in Orlando, a far cry from the 19.5 points per game in 2008 and 16.8 ppg. in 2009. He played in 53 games last season after breaking several orbital bones, an injury that required surgery. He shocked some when he returned last season for the final regular season game and then played in the playoffs with a hard plastic protective mask.

Some have wondered if this could be the season that Turkoglu would make the transition to playing as a reserve for the Magic. But injuries to Al Harrington (knee surgery) and Maurice Harkless (sports hernia) have put those plans on hold at least for the first two months of the season.

For now, Turkoglu is eager to show that he still has plenty of energy left in the tank to be a productive player for the Magic. He’s doing the things necessary to keep his body trim and in shape, whether it’s hoisting hundreds of extra shots after practice or lifting weights on off days.

He said after playing the NBA he doesn’t feel there’s much left for him to prove. But still, he wants to be a leader for the Magic’s younger players and a veteran that the team can continue to count on for production.

``I’ve been here so many years and I don’t try to show myself off to people. I know myself and what I can and can’t do,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I’ve been consistent so many years because I don’t do too much and I don’t do too (little). I stay in my lane and do the things that I’m capable of doing. That’s why I’ve been successful. I’ve never told anybody I can do this, or I can do that. I just try to compete and make the best of it.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jdenton@orlandomagic.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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