Hedo Turkoglu, Goran Dragic ready for World Championship

Hedo Turkoglu hopes to end his international career by leading the hometown team to a medal.

Hedo Turkoglu hopes to end his international career by leading the hometown team to a medal.

One of the biggest keys to the Phoenix Suns’ 2010-11 season revolves around what kind of player they’re getting in Hedo Turkoglu.

If he’s the clutch facilitator he was in Orlando, then the Suns’ offense will be damn near unstoppable. If he’s an overpaid defensive liability who doesn’t click on offense, well, the Suns made one heck of a mistake this offseason.

But before Turkoglu arrives in Phoenix for training camp he will first aim to lead Turkey to the top of the world in the FIBA World Championship that starts Saturday in Hedo’s native Turkey.

In many ways Hedo is kind of the the host of the tournament as the captain and best player of the local squad. When I asked him about the event at his introductory press conference on July 21, he could not have seemed more excited.

“It’s going to be great, man, it’s going to be fun,” Turkoglu said. “It’s going to be my last World Championship with my national team, and being that in Turkey and I’m the captain, hopefully I get one of the trophies, I don’t care what color it is, gold, silver, bronze all that. Hopefully as the captain I get to carry one of those and end my career like that.”

Suns fans should be a bit concerned because Hedo’s former agent Lon Babby said playing for Turkey last summer was one of the key things that set Turkoglu back entering his disaster season last year.

Turkoglu elaborated on that by saying, “Because of the timing. I didn’t have the time for resting and recovery. I played Finals until almost end of June, and that time I had the contract situation and right after that I start with the national team, so I don’t really have time to recover, relax, be out of the basketball, so added all together I don’t have time to do the things in a good way because I wasn’t really feeling that good, but right now I’ve had a good rest throughout the summer, I’m feeling great.”

Turkoglu of course said that a month ago and now has had even more time to decompress since the Raptors’ season ended in mid-April. It’s a concern still no doubt, but you can’t really compare this summer with last summer for Turkoglu.

Turkey will be competing in Group C, a group that also includes China, Ivory Coast, favorite Greece, Russia and Puerto Rico. Turkey, a team that also boasts Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, is expected to at least be one of the four teams to advance to the next round even with Utah center Mehmet Okur out of action.

Turkey will face Ivory Coast on Saturday, Russia Sunday, Greece Tuesday, Puerto Rico Wednesday and China on Thursday on NBA TV. All games will tip off at 11 a.m. MST.

The only other current Sun to take part in the tournament will be Slovenia guard Goran “THE DRAGON” Dragic. Slovenia will compete in Group B against Brazil, Croatia, Iran, Tunisia, Slovenia and the United States. Obviously Team USA will advance and the Slovenes are a good bet to advance as well along with Brazil.

Beno Udrih and Sasha Vujacic will not be participating for Slovenia (maybe that’s a good thing in the latter’s case), but Dragon will be flanked by Primoz Brezec, Bostjan Nachbar and Jaka Lakovic, one of the better guards in Europe.

Slovenia will take on Tunisia Saturday at 6:30 a.m. MST, Team USA at 6:30 Sunday on ESPN2 (set your TIVO for that one), Croatia Monday at 6:30, Brazil Wednesday at 11:30 on NBA TV and Iran Thursday at 9.

All of the games can be watched live on ESPN3.com, but the two games on real television should not be missed. It will be an incredible challenge for Goran Dragic to face off against the platoon of guards Team USA will be able to throw at him (and could this be his chance for revenge on Derrick Rose). Against Brazil he may be matched up against his former bench backcourt mate Leandro Barbosa, a spectacular matchup for Suns fans to watch.

Before you know it the Suns will be off to training camp to embark on their 2010-11 journey, but until then there will be lots of great international basketball the next few weeks with Turkey’s Hedo Turkoglu and Slovenia’s Goran Dragic leading their respective countries.

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Tags: FIBA World Championship Goran Dragic Hedo Turkoglu Slovenia Turkey

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