VANCOUVER - Say what you want about Hedo Turkoglu and his moments of indifference and petulance during his first and only season as a Raptor.
A lot has been said, on the record and off the record, both complimentary and uncomplimentary, but Turkoglu did provide a presence on the court that has rarely been seen in Toronto.
Politics and agenda aside, what Turkoglu did was give the Raptors a much-needed point forward, a facilitator on offence who can run screen and rolls, create and make plays late in the shot clock and late in game situations.
There is no point forward with these new-look Raptors, who met the Suns and Turkoglu for the first of two meetings during the pre-season.
Wednesday night provided the first game-action glimpse of the Raptors against an actual opponent.
Turkoglu’s Suns played the night previous in Sacramento, Turkoglu’s first NBA home, where he didn’t exactly distinguish himself in his new role as an undersized power forward.
Wearing jersey No. 19, Turkoglu played roughly 16 minutes, missed all five shots he took from the floor, hauled down one rebound, turned the ball over three times and managed to post two points.
As much as Phoenix has moved on in the absence of Amare Stoudemire, the Raptors have adjusted to life without Turkoglu.
About the only frontcourt player capable of initiating an offence is Linas Kleiza, who emerged as the best player during Sunday’s intra-squad game.
Like Turkoglu, Kleiza will be asked to play occasionally at power forward, where his ability to extend defences will be difficult to match up against.
Defensively, Kleiza will be at a disadvantage.
Size-wise, he doesn’t match up well against a legitimate power forward and quickness-wise he doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with athletic small forwards.
Much like the Suns, the Raptors will be asking their guards to initiate on offence, the big difference being the most obvious in that Toronto does not feature Steve Nash.
“Linas can handle the ball if he has to as a three (small forward) and he may play the four (power forward) some time,’’ Raptors head coach Jay Triano began when the topic of a point forward was broached.
“But we haven’t really set up much stuff (offensively) where we have a forward handling the basketball and creating for others right now.”
Heading into Wednesday’s pre-season curtain raiser, the Raptors have been asking their guards to run the offence, a unit that led the Eastern Conference last season in scoring with an average of 104.1 points.
There is no Turkoglu and there’s no Chris Bosh, but the Raptors are far from being offensively challenged.
It’s just that the offence without Turkoglu and Bosh will be different, more inclined to feature better balanced scoring and more apt to get out in transition, which, in theory, doesn’t allow opponents to set up on defence.
A year ago, the Raptors scored at least 100 points in the final 10 games of the season.
Andrea Bargnani, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson and Jarrett Jack, holdovers from last year and players who will be asked to shoulder more of the burden, combined to average 57.3 points, while shooting .514 from the field.
Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa will be prominent on the offensive end, but clearly this is a Raptors team that simply has to play better defensively.
And that’s where the Raptors won’t miss Turkoglu.
It could be argued that Bosh, at least defensively, won’t be missed, either, but he at least communicated on defence and averaged 10 rebounds.
“I don’t think we had an issues with the way (Turkoglu) played on the offensive end,’’ Triano added. “He created, he found guys and he created mismatch problems.”
Triano admitted the Raptors don’t have the flexibility on offence without Turkoglu, which pretty much is stating the obvious.
There’s this perception that Triano and Turkoglu didn’t get along, a sentiment Triano disputes.
At the root of Turkoglu’s discontent was his position that he wasn’t getting enough touches.
“I had a good relationship,’’ Triano added. “Turk and I got along fine. We communicated about different things.
“He probably didn’t like the way he was used or utilized, but there was never any rift as it was made out.”