Time for Hedo to pick up slack

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Hedo Turkoglu has never had a stretch like this.

And he never wants another like it.

His run of bad luck began on the final day of January. A broken orbital bone below his right eye courtesy of an errant elbow by Indianapolis forward Mike Dunleavy was the first setback.

He missed the next two games. When he returned he did so with a mask that, while protecting him from possible further serious injury, hampered his play. He eventually ditched it despite concerns from both team management and doctors.

The return to the court though was short-lived as he wound up missing the final game before the all-star break to rush back to Turkey where his mother was undergoing open heart surgery.

Upon returning from Turkey, Turkoglu's conditioning once again became a factor. Turkoglu began putting in the extra time after practice to get back up to speed.

Just as he was starting to show signs of finding his rhythm again, a sprained left ankle in a game in Houston knocked him down one more time.

Turkoglu missed half of that game and one more after an unsuccessful attempt to come back prematurely.

Which brings us to the present. The ankle is still not 100% but good enough for Turkoglu to play.

The conditioning, while not a major factor is still not optimal either. It needs to improve.

The problem is the Raptors need Turkoglu now. The team has 20 games remaining after Tuesday night's tilt in Los Angeles and are in a five-team dogfight for four playoff spots.

Chris Bosh is just back from a sprained ankle. The rest of the team is relatively injury free. Turkoglu, a guy brought in to be that go-to presence in the dying minutes, a guy brought in to win the close games for a team that has not had that type of player, needs to get healthy and stay healthy. The 21 minutes a night he has been averaging the past five weeks isn't going to cut it anymore.

BAD LUCK

Turkoglu knows this better than anyone. But to be that guy and to help this team the way Bryan Colangelo envisioned when he acquired him in a sign and trade with Orlando on July 9th, Turkoglu needs this run of bad luck to be over and be over now.

"Never like this before," Turkoglu said when asked if he has ever experienced anything like this in his 10 seasons in the NBA. "It's just one of those years you just have to say (screw) it, put it all behind you and just try to do better."

Having missed a handful of practices and the most recent game, Turkoglu isn't predicting big things right away. He knows he'll have to get back in that post-practice routine he and assistant Eric Hughes had going after the all-star break with plenty of shots and plenty of extra work.

"I've never given up in my life and I won't," Turkoglu said. "I know myself and I'll be ready for what's coming. Hopefully through this I can be 100% and really show myself and call on my previous experience in the playoffs and make that big shot or I will make the play for my teammates and try to win the ball game."

Head coach Jay Triano knows exactly what he needs from Turkoglu.

"We have to find a way in the last (20 games) for him to be a major factor," Trinao said. "That's why we got him -- for this stretch run and the playoffs."

Turkoglu's teammates are also expecting to see a different Turkoglu down the stretch.

"He has more in the tank," Antoine Wright said. "What better way to salvage the season than to play well these last five weeks. I think that has been on his mind a little bit. You can tell. He's in here taking everything serious. He's practising hard, getting in his extra shots and that's what it is going to take. I know he will come back with a little chip on his shoulder and that's what we need him to do."

MIKE.GANTER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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