PHOENIX — New city, new fans, new organization, new coach, new teammates and even a new jersey number.
After a more-than-forgettable season in Toronto, Hedo Turkoglu is finally able to put the Hedo-hate from Raptors fans behind him and turn the page to a new chapter of his career with the Phoenix Suns.
“It’s a new start for me,” Turkoglu said when he was introduced as a member of the Suns on Wednesday. “Like I say, I put [last] year away and it’s a new start for me, a new beginning, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The 6-foot-10, 31-year-old forward was reluctant talk about his 2009-10 season in Toronto, during which he averaged only 11.3 points per game — his lowest since the 2003-04 season.
Turkoglu quickly fell out of favor with the fans and organization, but wouldn’t get into much detail as to why the fit went awry so quickly.
“I really don’t like to talk about the past, I’m always for the future,” he said. “The chemistry wasn’t there on both sides. I guess I wasn’t really used correctly.”
Some say he was out of shape and unmotivated, others say he wasn’t given a chance to showcase his skills. But regardless of the reason for the fallout in Toronto, Turkoglu and the Suns organization alike couldn’t be happier that he’s in Phoenix and expect him to play at the level he did with the Orlando Magic.
“We’re extremely happy to have him here. I think he’s one of those players that can keep us playing at the level that we were at last year,” head coach Alvin Gentry said of Turkoglu. “I think you’ll see a player that will more than likely come back and play at the level he did when he had Orlando on the brink of a championship.”
Turkoglu broke out as a bonafide star in the 2007-08 season when he averaged 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his fourth year with the Magic, capturing the NBA’s Most Improved Player award along the way.
He then went on to lead the Magic to the NBA Finals during the 2008-09 season, solidifying himself as a Mr. Fourth Quarter of sorts, drilling big shot after big shot.
“He’s not afraid to take big shots, that’s the first step right there and obviously he’s been very successful making big shots,” Gentry said. “What it does is that it gives us another guy that at the end of games can take the pressure off of Steve Nash.”
Turkoglu’s been a player that the Suns have coveted since 2004 when they almost brought him to Phoenix. He figures to play multiple positions in the Suns’ offense, serve as an alternative ball handler and playmaker next to Nash and drill big shots when they matter most.
But this is a team that is built around chemistry and cohesion. So how will Turkoglu fit with the tight-knit Phoenix Suns?
“We’ve done a lot of homework in that area right there and I think he’ll be fine,” Gentry said when asked that exact question. “He’s a guy that really wants to win. He’s been a winner wherever he’s gone. I think he’s a guy that will fit in well here.”
“I think that I can be a great fit here as a player and a person,” Turkoglu added.
He sounded very willing to make sacrifices to win, whether it be via playing time or shot attempts, and seemed to understand how important chemistry is to this Suns team. He explained that the Magic teams that he was so successful leading were also built around chemistry, and that he wanted to enjoy a strong relationship with the fans and his teammates.
“There’s a good chemistry to build around (Nash) and I can see it. Just diving to the balls, picking up the guys — its all that good chemistry, that’s how you are successful in this league,” Turkoglu explained. “If you look at all of the good teams, besides being just good players they’re good teammates, too. They’re unselfish, they like to play off each other and they like to have fun on the court.
“That’s what we did in Orlando, we were having fun on and off the court. That’s how you really become a good team. Like interacting [with] the fans, having fun on the court. Now that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Turkoglu no longer has to fight off the boos ringing through the Air Canada Centre, or worry about being benched and mistreated by management. He is finally able to rid himself of the Toronto demons and look forward to regaining his reputation as one of the most versatile and clutch players in the NBA.
“Last year — it was last year,” Turkoglu said. “I put that behind me. Now is a new place for me, new beginning, new stuff. … I’m looking forward to having another great year like I had in the past.”
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