OTTAWA – Hedo Turkoglu even sounded tired.
One of the biggest pieces to the Raptors’ roster puzzle this season sat quietly at courtside Tuesday, his shoulders hunched over in a bulky black sweatshirt. Turkoglu, acquired in a blockbuster four-team trade in the off-season, is resting through the early part of training camp after a long run through the playoffs last season with Orlando and then a busy summer spent playing for Turkey.
And by all appearances, he needs it.
“It was very busy,” Turkoglu said, his voice lacking any semblance of energy. “Right now I’m just trying to manage myself and try to look for the long picture and try to be more fresh and more healthy for the long coming season. I don’t want to be like this, but in the end it will be the best for the Raptors.”
The Raptors acquired the 30-year-old Turkoglu from Orlando in July, a deal that not only gave Toronto some financial room to move but also a veteran player known for his versatile game.
“He’s such a basketball-savvy player, he’s been effective at so many different levels, but the thing that’s so notable with him is he makes others on the floor with him better,” said Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo. “He’s got play-making skills but he’s 6-10, he can handle the ball, he can play two, three, four (shooting guard, small forward, power forward).
“But when it comes to that experience and savvy, that’s going to help this team. We haven’t really had a guy to go to late in the game to break down the defence, create a shot for someone else or yourself. Late-game situations, I know he’s got that mindset that he knows what to do with the ball.”
Turkoglu is coming off a career season that saw him lead Orlando to the NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists and started in 77 regular-season games. He shone in the post-season, scoring a career playoff-high 29 points against Cleveland.
He followed up the NBA season by playing for Turkey in the recent European championships.
Now, he could just use some rest.
“There’s no point beating him down in October here, after the summer that he had and the last four months that he’s played, all the way back to June, pretty intense basketball,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano. “We’re just going to ease him back in and make sure we don’t wear him down.”
Turkoglu also has nagging knee pain from what Colangelo said was quadriceps tendinitis, and so will spend much of camp in the physio room. He’s in good company. Team captain Chris Bosh isn’t practising after straining his hamstring earlier this month in Dallas.
“I’m going to be looking at Hedo a lot for the next week, and he gets to check out my handsome face all day so I know he can’t complain,” Bosh said, laughing.
The Raptors all-star forward helped lure Turkoglu to Toronto, calling the nine-year NBA veteran when Turkoglu appeared poised to sign with the Portland Trailblazers.
Bosh said the thing he likes most about his new teammate is his laid-back demeanour.
“He’s just laid back and cool, you can tell he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low, he’s just pretty steady,” Bosh said. “I don’t think you get many surprises from that guy, he’s just plain and simple.”
Turkoglu is just one of nine new faces in training camp this year after a massive off-season overhaul. The team will certainly face some challenges in the first few practices, but Triano said he was pleased with the opening session at training camp Tuesday.
“It was great, high intensity, the learning curve is very steep, and it’s about finding out what some of the guys can do, and how fast they can pick things up,” Triano said.
Turkoglu knows it’s important that he gets to the know his new teammates sooner rather than later.
“I know we’re going to have some tough times because if you look at the team right now, with me we have nine new guys, and the other three guys are new for me too, Chris, Andrea (Bargnani) and Jose (Calderon),” he said. “It’s not going to be solved in a few days in training camp but throughout October when we play together and practise, we’ll get to know each other better as a person and a player too.
“The big picture is making this team a playoff contender, and I think we’re capable of that.”
Turkoglu played for Sacramento and San Antonio before signing with Orlando as a free agent in 2004.
He has averaged 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds over his career and is a 38.5 per cent shooter from three-point range.
Turkoglu joined a team that already has a distinctly international flavour. Calderon is from Spain, Bargnani and Marco Belinelli are from Italy and centre Rasho Nesterovic is a Slovenian.