Turkoglu shuns protective mask

On January 30, 2010, Indiana Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy crashed into Toronto Raptors forward Hedo...

On January 30, 2010, Indiana Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy crashed into Toronto Raptors forward Hedo Turkoglu, who left the game with a injury around his right eye. (GREG HENKENHAF/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:55 PM ET

We’ve now gone from “Ball” to “Mask”

Say this about Hedo Turkoglu: He does things his way.

The Raptors Turkish forward revealed Friday that despite requests from both the team and its doctors to don facial protection, he will play Sunday’s game against Sacramento without a protective mask for the fractured orbital bone beneath his right eye.

Turkoglu, who became an internet sensation with his “Ball” interview a week ago, was again the focal point of Friday’s post-practice media session.

After sustaining a slight fracture under his right eye during last Sunday’s win over Indiana when he caught an errant Mike Dunleavy elbow in the face, Turkoglu sat out Tuesday’s tilt in Indiana and Wednesday’s win over New Jersey. He fully expects to return Sunday, but on his terms.

“They want me to play with the mask, but I can’t,” Turkoglu said Friday. “I told them it’s uncomfortable. I just have to do my best without the mask.”

Turkoglu was fitted for the mask earlier this week in Indianapolis. He even tried to work out with the mask on for a half hour to an hour, but came away convinced it wouldn’t work for him.

“It’s not really easy,” Turkoglu said of playing with a mask on. “It’s like a fitted mask, it’s so sensitive. You have a lot of pressure on it. When you move, it kind of bothers you more than usual. It’s not really comfortable. You really have to tighten up to fit it well.”

Turkoglu said if the team doctors had their way, he would be wearing it for six weeks giving the bone time to heal, but in his mind, there’s no guarantee a mask is going to keep him from getting hurt again in any event.

“Even if I’m wearing the mask and someone really elbows me good, I could still be messed up,” Turkoglu said. “Instead of breaking 10 bones, with the mask on I might just break eight. It really doesn’t matter. In the end I wouldn’t be comfortable playing with a mask.

Turkoglu was asked if he would sign a waiver to provide the team some protection since it was his idea not to wear the mask.

“If I have to, I will,” Turkolgu said.

Raptors head coach Jay Triano refused to get involved in the whole mask issue.

“As long as he wears 26 and it says ‘Raptors,’ I’m good,” Triano said. “Honestly I don’t want to get involved in that. It’s something he has to figure out with our trainers and doctors. I’m happy that he wants to play. I said today it was going to be a contact practice and they said he would be available.”

The Raps have four years remaining on a $52.8-million deal with Turkoglu so it’s not all that surprising that the team as a whole would be taking the cautious approach here. Turkoglu though believes risk is inherent in every day life and this is no different.

“If it happens, it happens,” he said of the potential for more serious injury. “I can’t do anything about it. I just don’t want to think about it or talk about it. I have a fracture on my face. Still, it’s part of game, part of the life that you deal with all the time. You just toughen up and do the best.”

Turkoglu has worn a mask once during his NBA career, but it didn’t last long.

A broken nose, courtesy of Turkoglu’s own “stupidness” when he tried to get in a rebounding battle with teammate Dwight Howard and took an elbow in the schnozz for his troubles two years ago, was the occasion.

He wore it for the first quarter of the next game and never wore it again.

Turkoglu said he has talked with the doctors, with GM Bryan Colangelo and Triano about it but feels it is his decision to make.

“It’s not like they’re forcing me, like they’re putting a gun to my head, ‘Or you’re not practising.’” Turkoglu said. “They’ve just been, like I said, curious and been careful. They just want me to be protected and try to be 100% until this heals. In the end, I said I’m not going to be comfortable with it and I won’t be playing good basketball.

“They support my choice.”

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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