Hedo Turkoglu is still looking for a home after leaving Orlando. And the Magic are looking for someone to fill his role in their offense.
The name just brings up nostalgia. A time when the Magic running through the Eastern Conference was a surprise, championship expectations were still a year away and everything was joyous.
There may not have been a happier, more enjoyable time in Magic history than the 2009 NBA Playoffs. And Turkoglu was by far one of the biggest parts of that run. Most people considered him Orlando’s number one offensive option on that run.
Turkoglu did what he needed to do in a contract year. He averaged 16.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists, coming down from career highs in 2008. His numbers did not jump significantly in the postseason (15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game). But the perception of him had changed. It was Turkoglu handling the ball in crunch time, hitting a game-winning jumper in Game Four against Philadelphia. He also had the go-ahead basket in Game Two against Cleveland, but I think we all know how that ended.
Things have not gone well for Turkoglu… and to a certain extent the Magic since that run.
Turkoglu received a rich 5-year, $53 million contract that started reportedly at $9 million last year. But while Turkoglu got his pay day, there was still controversy and struggles for him. He had the whole situation where he backed out of an initial agreement with Portland to go to Toronto. Then the situation in Toronto did not work.
Hedo was sent to the doghouse as his personality did not mesh with Toronto’s and he struggled adjusting a new role — and new expectations — on the floor. Turkoglu averaged 11.3 points per game and shot 40.9 percent from the floor. Both of those numbers were lows since he came off the bench in San Antonio the year before signing with Orlando.
Turkoglu was traded to Phoenix over the summer and is still looking to fit a role and find a comfortable spot on the team. He is averaging 10.3 points, 2.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game as he has been moved even further off the ball in the Steve Nash-centric offense.
Really Orlando has a Turkoglu-sized hole in its heart too. Things just are not the same as Turkoglu left and the scrutiny level on the team rose.
Turkoglu gave Orlando a 6-foot-10 second point guard who could handle the ball and hit shots in clutch situations. He was not always the most graceful or efficient player on the floor, but the Magic could cont on him when they needed him. He also was willing to think pass-first, something Jameer Nelson is not always going to do, and get everyone involved.
A lot of people have theorized Rashard Lewis has been pushed further to the periphery of the offense because of Turkoglu’s departure. A lot have also believed losing the second 6-foot-10 wing player made it more difficult for Orlando to take advantage of matchup problems. Undoubtedly Vince Carter is a much different player than Turkoglu and, even with a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, something did not feel right without Turkoglu in the lineup.
Orlando made the right decision in not offering Turkoglu the 5-year, $53 million deal Hedo got. Carter is making more than Turkoglu, but on a shorter contract and with concerns about Dwight Howard’s future, it was the right financial decision. Whether it was the right decision for winning a title still remains to be seen.
For the time being, the Magic and Turkoglu are closely linked. Even as Toronto was shopping Turkoglu, Orlando came up. As long as the current core group is together and without a title, people will suggest a reunion of the two.
As Turkoglu makes his only return to his old stomping grounds this year, the empty feeling left by Turkoglu’s departure for player and former team.