Raptors head coach Jay Triano will finally get the chance to use all of his big guns in a pre-season game this week.
Forward Hedo Turkoglu, the club’s big off-season acquisition, practiced all-out with the team yesterday and expects to play his first pre-season game Wednesday night in Hartford against the Boston Celtics. If he’s not ready to play against the Celtics, he’ll likely play on Thursday at the Air Canada Centre against the Houston Rockets.
“He went pretty hard (Monday), so we’re just going to see how he responds to that and we’ll make an evaluation (today),” Triano said of Turkoglu.
For his part, the nine-year NBA veteran said that he can’t wait to finally get into a game.
“I’m going to be excited and nervous to be honest,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’ll play, but I’ll try to do my best to help the team.”
Turkoglu has not played in Toronto’s four pre-season games because of sore knees and fatigue, the result of playing in the NBA Finals in June and also playing for the Turkish national team at the world championship qualifying tournament this summer in Poland.
The Raptors’ all-star power forward Chris Bosh recently returned to the lineup and this week will mark the first time the two NBA standouts will play with each other.
“I had a good practice (Monday) and hopefully another one (today) and hopefully get some playing time (tomorrow) and hopefully be part of the team from now on,” said a hopeful Turkoglu, adding that he’s been both mentally and physically worn down since the end of the summer. “I want to try to work my way up to the best shape I can before the regular season starts.”
The Raptors open up the regular season on Oct.28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre.
Turkoglu told the Turkish media this summer that he hopes to become an NBA all-star this season.
He certainly had a good year with the Orlando Magic last season, averaging 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
With nine new faces on the team since the end of last season, it’s been a challenge for Triano and his players to create chemistry and for everyone to learn Triano’s defensive and offensive schemes.
“We have a lot of talented guys who can do a lot of good things, but we have to be a group,” said Turkoglu. “Coach Jay is also giving a lot of young guys an opportunity. So we’re in a learning process as a team. Hopefully, as we get close to the season, we’ll all become ready.
“Our expectations are high but we’re capable of (living up to them),” he added.
Turkoglu has only played with one other current member of the Raptors, centre Rasho Nesterovic. The two played for the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003-04 season.
Forward Antoine Wright, who has been out with a sore right knee, also practiced yesterday, but guard Sonny Weems, who jammed his big toe in Toronto’s win on Sunday, did not.
The Raptors are 2-2 in the pre-season, defeating the Washington Wizards, 100-93, on Sunday afternoon at the ACC.