CHICAGO — The long-awaited return of Hedo Turkoglu, at least in the regular season, arrives Sunday night.
When he suited up for the Phoenix Suns way back in the pre-season, long before his blockbuster move back to Orlando, a half-empty crowd at the ACC welcomed Turkoglu with half-hearted venom.
With little to play for as the Raptors close out their lost season, the only meaningful occasions feature Turkoglu as the backdrop and Chris Bosh in the season finale on April 13 when the Miami Heat comes to town.
It makes no sense in retracing the many missteps Turkoglu and the Raptors franchise made, but the way Orlando has used Turkoglu in his second incarnation as a Magic illustrates his value and his impact on games.
The bottom line with Turkoglu is that he’s a unique player, a 6-foot-10 small forward who handles the ball like a point guard, one of the game’s few players who can actually make entry passes and when he’s aggressive in looking to get off his own shot he inches closer into elite territory.
The business of basketball forced the breakout between Turkoglu and Orlando in an off-season when the Magic took the Lakers to five games in the NBA final, a series that was much closer.
It was business that brought Turkoglu to Toronto after Portland thought it had a verbal deal in place.
Along comes an abbreviated stint in Phoenix, where the Suns used Turkoglu at power forward, an ill-advised move that would quickly be resolved through a multi-player trade.
Any team would covet Turkoglu’s skills, but no team is best suited to have Turkoglu on the floor for extended minutes than Orlando.
There’s no dominant a big in the game than Dwight Howard, who needs touches, the more the better.
There aren’t many teams in the NBA that rely on the three-point shot than the Magic.
A little older, a little more banged up physically, Turkoglu looms as one of the key players as the post-season looms with Orlando all but a lock to face Atlanta in the opening round.
“He’s sometimes his own worst enemy, trying to predetermine what he’s going to do and not taking in what the defence gives him,” Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said recently of his point forward.
On Friday night, Turkoglu led Orlando with seven assists. Turkoglu would heave 11 shots with nine being attempted beyond the three-point arc.
Turkoglu drained four of his jumpers, but not a single trip to the foul line was produced.
It’s a fine line between shooting your own shot and wanting to feed a beast in the post like Howard, who is playing at such a high level he could easily go off for 50 against the Raptors tonight.
“I told him everything gets set up by his shot,” Van Gundy said of Turkoglu. “He’s a very skilled guy and when he’s playing under control and relaxed and not predetermining his move and he’s willing to shoot the ball, he’s a very tough guy to guard.”
Given his size, Turkoglu can pass over any defender.
With the Magic depleted in numbers and the team’s health status at the point so tenuous, Turkoglu has been asked to run the offence.
Against the Knicks, the Magic had Turkoglu, Howard, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Ryan Anderson on the floor to begin the fourth quarter.
Against the Raptors tonight, expect the ball to be in Turkoglu’s hands a lot, which can mean only that a lot of boos will be heard.