Denton: Turkoglu Happy To Be Back Home

By John Denton
December 22, 2010


ORLANDO – Hedo Turkoglu rested in his own bed Tuesday, met up later with old friends, hung out at his favorite lunch spot and then played before the fans who revered him once upon a time, booed him for a brief period and then showered him again with cheers.

Back in Orlando a year-and-a-half after leaving to sign a $50 million free-agent contract with the Toronto Raptors, Turkoglu found out an important life lesson: Change isn’t always a good thing. He hopes that’s something the Magic, his former team and his new team again, believes as well.

Turkoglu, who went through his first practice with the Magic on Wednesday following Saturday’s blockbuster trade and games against the Hawks and Mavericks, stressed that he never really wanted to leave Orlando in the first place. Now that he’s back, he couldn’t be happier.

``In that situation, with both sides, people sometimes think that change could be good at that time,’’ Turkoglu said of his controversial contract dispute in Orlando in 2009. ``Listen, in that situation as a player you are always trying to take care of your family. The organization I’m sure thinking that change would be good. But for both sides it doesn’t work out the best way. So I just put it behind me and I’m glad that I’m back. I’m excited about doing my job here in the best way I can again.’’

Turkoglu’s job, of course, is running the pick-and-roll to set up the likes of Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick and fellow newcomers Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark for easy baskets. It was a similar role that Turkolgu played in the 2008-09 season when he was a major cog that made the Magic’s offensive machine purr.

Turkoglu and his new teammates got a chance to go through their first practice together on Wednesday, a normal off day following a back-to-back. But practice was necessary after the Magic pulled off two blockbuster trades on Saturday and changed almost a third of their roster. Orlando (16-12) had to play two games – both losses – before getting on the practice court together so Wednesday was a must to try and get on the same page.

``(Practice) was important and I know most of the guys wanted this day off, but the new guys needed to learn what their concepts are because it’s hard to go into a game on the fly. Little things that killed us (against Dallas), we went over them in practice and that’s what we needed,’’ Arenas said. ``It’ll probably take us a week or two. I know everyone is expecting us to come in and save everything really quickly, but we’ve got to get adapted to the way the team is playing and get used to the city. But we still have to go out there and compete. We’ve got to get it moving.’’

Turkoglu is expected to get the ball moving on a Magic team that has had trouble passing the ball throughout this season. He’s done just that in his first two games back with the Magic, handing out 11 assists. Eight of those assists came on Tuesday night against Dallas and many of them setting up easy baskets for Howard, the player he has the best chemistry with from their first stint together.

Turkoglu authored two of the most clutch all-around performances in Magic history in the 2009 playoffs. He had 25 points and 12 assists in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs to vault the Magic into the Eastern Conference Finals. Then, in Game 1 against the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers, Turkoglu delivered 15 points and 14 assists, to jump-start a Magic series upset that put them in the NBA Finals.

When Turkoglu couldn’t agree on a contract with the Magic following the playoffs, he left for Toronto and the $50 million the Raptors were offering. But his one season in Toronto was a huge disappointment largely because Turkoglu was playing out of position. He asked to be traded last summer, and was sent to the Phoenix Suns. But many of the same problems arose as Steve Nash – and not Turkoglu – handled most of the playmaking duties.


John Denton
``Compared to Toronto and Phoenix, he’s had his hands on the ball here more and been in a lot more pick-and-roll plays,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``Toronto had a really good point guard in (Jose) Calderon and they were going to (Chris) Bosh and (Andrea) Bargnani. And in Phoenix everything goes through Steve Nash. I just think it’s about opportunity for him.’’

Turkoglu said he’ll be forever grateful to Van Gundy for giving him the opportunity to show that he’s an elite player. He averaged a career-best 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 rebounds during the 2007-08 season to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. And he was almost as good in 2008-09 (16.8 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 4.9 apg.) in helping Orlando get to the NBA Finals for just the second time in his career.

Knowing that Van Gundy believes in him and that he’s in a system that fits his style of play gives Turloglu a great peace of mind. Knowing that change wasn’t necessarily good for him in the past, he now hopes to stick with a style that has always worked for him.

``It helps my confidence that (Van Gundy) believes in me. He knows how to use me and how to play to my strengths,’’ Turkoglu said. ``He’s never expected me to have a 30-point game or a 25-point game, but he does expect me to make the right call and make the right decisions. He really helped me become one of the really good players in this league. Now, defensively and offensively I just want to do what I can to help this team win some games.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.