Hedo faces up to it

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Hedo Turkoglu's extra layer of protection wasn't as bad as he expected.

Reluctantly wearing a mask to protect the broken bone beneath his right eye, Turkoglu spent a good portion of his afternoon strapping and unstrapping his much talked- about mask, but in the end it came down to doing what needed to be done.

"I just had to keep fixing it," Turkoglu. "It's not just the mask, but the straps, too. They move up and down. When I run, I have to keep fixing it. Sometimes, driving I can get hit and it moves, but when I get used to it, I will feel more comfortable."

Through it all, Turkoglu managed 16 points and five assists and, while he did wind up fouling out late in the fourth quarter, even that wasn't such a bad thing as it gave the announced crowd of 18,007 the opportunity to give him his own round of applause.

"It wasn't that bad, at all," he said of the mask. "I just need some time. A couple of more games and hopefully I'll be done with it and won't have to wear it again."

On Friday afternoon, Turkoglu surprised the team and those around it when he announced he would not be wearing the protective mask for the game despite being advised to do so by team doctors and management.

A day later, after numerous phone calls from friends suggesting he do the smart thing and wear the mask, and a harder sell from management and its doctors on the necessity of the protection, Turkoglu relented.

To hear head coach Jay Triano tell it, it's a good thing for everyone on the team that Turkoglu did.

Asked following Sunday's 115-104 win over Sacramento what he felt had helped the team turn the corner, Triano said a big part of it was the masked man himself.

"A lot of it has to do with Turk," Triano said. "He is the guy who wasn't here before. It may not show up in the stats, but the kicks and the movement of the basketball, where the ball goes and the fact he is a threat on the three-point line, we want the ball in his hands. He makes plays for other people. Antoine (Wright) makes a shot and Jose (Calderon) gave it to him, but Turk started the whole thing with drives."

The good news is Turkoglu has now proven to himself that he can still do all that, even with a cumbersome addition to his face.


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