Suns Introduce Forward Hedo Turkoglu

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
Stefan Swiat,
Posted: July 21, 2010

The Suns may have had to give up the “Brazilian Blur,” but in the end, they received the “Turkish Michael Jordan.”

At a press conference in the Al McCoy Media Center in US Airways Center on Wednesday, the Suns officially welcomed forward Hedo Turkoglu to the organization. Turkoglu arrived in Phoenix via a trade that sent guard Leandro Barbosa and forward/center Dwayne Jones to Toronto.

With the departure of Amar’e Stoudemire to the Knicks, the Suns have now filled his absence with Hakim Warrick and with Turkoglu, a 6-10, 220-pound sharpshooter known for his versatility. Used frequently as a point-forward throughout his career, the Suns’ coaching staff believes that Turkoglu’s playmaking prowess will relieve Steve Nash of having to shoulder most of that burden.

“We can put the ball in his hands and take some of the pressure off Steve as far as making plays at the end of the game,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “We tried really hard to get him the first year that Robert (Sarver) owned the team because we thought he would be great in our system.”

Tukoglu, who has averaged 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 38-percent shooting throughout his career, is known for being one of the deadliest clutch shooters in the league. In fact, for all of the talk about the summer of the 2010 free agents, Turkoglu was one of the most highly coveted free agents of the summer of 2009.

Despite originally agreeing to a deal with the Blazers, Turkoglu signed with the Raptors in the 11th hour before last season. After recording his lowest scoring average in the last six seasons in Toronto, Turkoglu actually restructured his contract and took less money to come to Phoenix.

However, with Orlando in the 2008-09 season, Turkoglu averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in helping lead Orlando to the Finals against the Lakers. His best season was in 2007-08, when Turkoglu won the NBA's Most Improved Player award by averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

“I’m excited to be here,” Turkoglu said. “I’m going to try to be unselfish and be a team guy. We all know how they play. They have a good group of guys, they like to play with each other and they have a good system with Coach Alvin here.”

Besides Miami’s LeBron James and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala, Turkoglu is one of only three forwards who have averaged at least four assists in each of the last three seasons. The 10-year veteran has drained 100 or more three-pointers in each of the last five seasons, averaging 126 threes during that period.

“He’s a multiple-position player,” Gentry said. “I think he’ll play the two, three, four and in certain situations, maybe the five.

“That’s the great thing about having him as a player. Whatever you need at that particular time I think you can plug him in and I think that’s what he’ll be able to get done for you. He’s almost like a utility infielder.”

One of the intriguing elements of having Turkoglu on board is allowing the Suns to free up Nash as a shooter. Allowing Turkoglu to create for the Nash would give the two-time MVP open looks he normally wouldn’t have.

“It allows us to play Steve off the ball some,” Gentry noted. “Everyone forgets that Steve is one of the best two shooters in the NBA. I think he can be a catch-and-shoot guy because I think Hedo is very good at creating.”

In order for this trade to occur, the Suns had to bid farewell to Barbosa, who played seven seasons in the Valley of the Sun. Barbosa leaves with career averages of 12.6 points, 2.6 assists and 39 percent three-point shooting.

The former 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year will join former Suns GM, Bryan Colangelo, in Toronto. As for Turkoglu, he’ll return home to prepare for the upcoming World Championships in his home country of Turkey.

The newest Sun was just cleared to resume training for the World Championships after undergoing gall bladder surgery last week. Turkoglu said that the procedure was minor and that he feels tip-top.

The first Turkish-born NBA player will wear No. 19 in honor of his birthday on March 19.

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