Denton: Turk Was Nervous in Return (Part 2)
By John Denton
December 30, 2012
Also driving Turkoglu was an injury late last season that knocked him out of action. He fractured an orbital bone around his left eye last April, knocking him out of 10 games down the stretch. Turkoglu returned for the regular-season finale, some two weeks ahead of schedule to win favor with his teammates because of his courage. But he struggled mightily in the playoffs while wearing a protective facemask, and vowed to make this season a better one.
Turkoglu found out rather quickly while injured last season that the time away from his teammates is what he missed the most. Strangely, he missed the long flights together, the endless number of bus rides, the locker room pranks with friends and the highs and lows that come with winning and losing.
Then, he felt a pop in his hand in the opener, and Turkoglu was back on the shelf again. What made the injury even more painful was the fact that he was isolated away from his teammates again. When the Magic upset the Lakers in Los Angeles in early December Turkoglu watched from Orlando and longed to be there to celebrate with his teammates. And when the team struggled in the days after Davis’ shoulder injury, Turkoglu ached to be away from a team that badly needed his experience and play-making skills in pick-and-roll plays.
``I wasn’t able to travel with the team, and (Washington on Friday) was my first roadtrip with the guys,’’ he said. ``This is the part that I miss the most, being around the team. Good or bad times – when they were winning I was missing it and when they are losing I was missing that, too. I just want to be a part of the good and bad days.’’
The undermanned Magic have experienced far too many bad days of late, entering Monday’s Miami game on a five-game losing streak. The Magic were a win short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the team was 2-2, but injuries have taken away that chance. A five-game spiral against Toronto (twice), Utah, New Orleans and Washington has left the team reeling heading into arguably its toughest stretch of the season. Home games against Miami, Chicago and New York are ahead, while a four-game road trip against Portland, Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington is looming next week.
Turkoglu knows that he and the Magic’s other veteran players must try to steady the ship until the team can get Davis, Nelson and Moore back healthy.
``We’ve just got to work at it, work in practice, talk and try to teach the young guys the best way we can to get better,’’ he said. ``I know it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have nights like (Saturday’s 123-88 loss to Toronto). I know it’s frustrating and nobody likes to lose, but sometimes it’s going to happen.’’
The lopsided nature of Saturday’s game allowed Vaughn to play Turkoglu the entire fourth quarter in an effort to allow him to shake off the rust of an eight-week layoff. He had a breakaway dunk seconds after checking into the game midway through the second quarter to a warm ovation, but things quickly went downhill. Turkoglu twice turned the ball over on drives into the lane and he made just two of his final seven shots. He finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes.
``It was good to get him some minutes and extend him toward the end of the game just to get some game minutes underneath him,’’ Vaughn said. ``I thought he attacked the rim pretty well with a couple of and-ones. It was just good to see him with the ball in his hands and distributing in pick-and-rolls. So definitely it was good to see him out there again.’’
A scary moment came just before the half when Toronto’s Kyle Lowry went for a steal, swatted for the basketball and instead hit right across Turkoglu’s still-tender left hand. The Magic forward winced in pain, cupped the hand inside his right hand and tried to gather himself before missing a free throw. Turkoglu knows that the hand is going to get hit and he’s just going to have to get accustomed to it as the season progresses.
``It’s going to get hit a lot, but I just hope that it won’t affect me out there and keep me out of games,’’ he said. ``Throughout the games I’m going to get him, but I can’t focus on that.’’
The highlights of Turkoglu’s return were the two times when he got into the lane, looked off the help defense and finished at the rim while getting fouled. While admitting nerves, Turkoglu said that his conditioning also leave a lot to be desired since running on the treadmill never quite equals game shape. He hopes that in time, he’ll get a step faster as his conditioning improves and he’ll be able to assist a Magic team in need of his veteran leadership now.
``Sometimes I was feeling like I was going by people, but I would look up and (the defender) was still there,’’ the good-natured Turkoglu said with a laugh. ``I was feeling like I was a step slow, but I was expecting to be like that. Hopefully, we’ll have a good practice (on Sunday) and on Monday and Wednesday I’ll get to play more and more and get my wind back. Hopefully I will be (fully) ready after a few games.’’
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