Turkoglu, who signed a five-year $53-milliion deal US with Toronto this summer, admitted yesterday he is uncomfortable with his role at a time when just about everyone else on this Raptors roster seems to have found a comfort zone.
"The things I can’t do — I don’t know if you followed me much (in Orlando) and how I played there — I just can’t do the things without the ball. Even today, I had nine assists, but the things about how I play are as much about how much I get the ball and how I get myself going and my teammates too."
In short, Turkoglu is not playing with the ball in his hands as much as he was accustomed to in Orlando and he’s having a hard time making an impact in games without it.
"It’s hard for me to tell you right now that I can run down the side and just expect to be a spot-up guy after the past three years being the point guard and leading the team and making those decisions," Turkoglu said. "Still, I will try to be out there and try to do my best and hopefully things will turn around."
The fans in Toronto appear to be losing patience with Hedo Turkoglu. At one point in the second quarter, as Turkoglu approached the line for a couple of free throws, a lone voice from the sellout crowd could be heard expressing his opinion of Bryan Colangelo’s big off-season acquisition. After missing both freebies, that lone voice had plenty of company as a groundswell of boos began.
"After that little 10-0 run (in the opening two minutes), for the most part we had a bunch of instances where we gave them a lot of contested shots and they basically just knocked them down," said Chris Bosh, who finished the day with 31 points – including 13 free throws – to go along with 13 rebounds.
"When that happens, sometimes you can’t let that discourage you. If they knock down a tough shot with a hand in the face, you can live with it. If they make it, it is what it is," Bosh added.
And what it usually was was Wallace, the veteran, defence-stretching big man.
Starting in place of the injured Kevin Garnett, he had five three-pointers on seven attempts (this from a guy shooting 29 per cent from beyond the arc going into the game) and finished with 29 points.
But in a lineup that often features two point guards in Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon as well as Chris Bosh, who quite rightly gets a high percentage of touches, and Andrea Bargnani, who takes a high volume of shots, Turkoglu is still trying to find his feet as the Raptors (19-19) approach the halfway point of the season.
“I just run on the side and expect them to just pass it to me,” he said. “For the past three years, I’ve been a point guard too, leading the team and making decisions. Still I’m going to go out there and try to do my best and hopefully it will turn around.”
More from Turkoglu certainly would have helped the Raptors yesterday. After spotting the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics a 10-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes, the Raptors did their best to reel the tough-minded Celtics (26-9) back in.
I’m unconvinced that ‘Hedo Turkoglu’ really is how you say ‘Vernon Wells’ in Turkish, although it bothers me that after being a no-show in yesterday’s loss to the Boston Celtics, Turkoglu did one of those ‘wither me’ things suggesting there aren’t enough balls to go around – or, too many point guards and wannabe point guards, himself included.
The bigger concern out of that 114-107 loss is that Chris Bosh had one field goal attempt in the fourth quarter after scoring 29 points through three.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano took some of the blame for not watching Bosh’s minutes more closely, which Bosh said: “We were going with what was working. They really started paying attention to me a lot more. I didn’t want to force anything, because against a team like that, it’s what gets you in trouble.”
"I think we’ve figured out we have a better chance of winning, if we compete," said Chris Bosh with a crooked smile after Boston’s 114-107 victory at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. "You can do something and think it’s good enough, but it’s not."
And that little homily brings us to Hedo Turkoglu. The sleepy-eyed Turk with the most unfortunately appropriate TV commercial ever — the ad for Pizza Pizza where he sits on his couch cramming slices into his mouth and languidly answering the phone when coach Jay Triano calls — had another underwhelming outing yesterday. His line: Two of nine shooting, 0-for-2 from the line, five points, nine assists, four rebounds.
Turkoglu, however, knows that what he is doing isn’t good enough. He’s just not sure he can change it.
“What rumor is that?” Bynum asked when he was questioned if the trade speculation had sparked him to play the way he did on Sunday.
When he was told it was for Bosh, a four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medal-winning teammate of Bryant, he replied with his patented phrase:
“Oh, that’s crazy.”
Is it that crazy?
The Post story quotes Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo as “not seeking a deal or discussing Bosh with any team, much less the Lakers,” but wouldn’t it be crazier for Toronto to wait around and hope that Bosh doesn’t opt out of the final year of his contract this summer instead of shipping him for a sure thing before the Feb. 18 trade deadline?
“I don’t even care,” Bynum said. “I love playing basketball. I’ll play this game anywhere. It’s not the first time that it’s happened to me, so I’m used to it.”
The Celtics led the Raptors at halftime 59-50, with Rondo having nine assists at the time. The whole Raptors team collectively only had nine assists in the first half. Boston then outscored Toronto 34-30 in the third to go into the final quarter up by 13 points. Wallace and Rondo each had nine points in the quarter.
The Raptors then went on a little run of their own as they were able to outscore the Celtics in the final quarter 27-21 but that wasn’t enough as the Celtics went on to win for the third time against the team from Toronto this season.
The Raptors defense is quickly getting rid of that "worst in the league" tag and going to "mediocre." With the offense of this team, I think that we’ll take that happily. Offense certainly hasn’t been a problem, and Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani have been spectacular, pouring in the points.
It’s better courtside. I was courtside before, but not first row. It’s completely surreal and you get to enjoy the game within the game. I’m talking about all the trash talking, especially from the always hilarious Rasheed Wallace. Wallace killed us all afternoon and wasn’t shy about replying to our heckles. When one loudster told him he sucked, his instant reply to us all across from the Raptors bench was "thank you very much".
Kendrick Perkins was also a treat to watch. At one point, he told us to "eat a dick". You don’t get such demands in the Sprite Zone.
Really, that’s the story of the game: The Raptors couldn’t stop the C’s offense. Toronto, a top-five offensive team, would trim the deficit down to six or eight points in the 2nd half, but the C’s responded with 4-0 or 6-2 spurts every time they needed to. When the Raps got within 77-70 in the 3rd, for instance, Paul Pierce found Rondo wide-open under the hoop for an easy lay-in. (He was free because his man, Jarrett Jack, had to rotate over to Perk after the Raps trapped Pierce on a Pierce/Perk screen/roll on the right wing). Ray followed with a jumper, Perk hit a face-up 10-footer over Bosh on a broken play and then Ray found Perk for a dunk, and suddenly it was 86-75 again.
It’s difficult to tell what ‘Sheed’s motivation is when the Celtics and Raptors square off. Clearly playing at home in Boston isn’t the source, as he had his best game against Toronto in an entirely different country. So what exactly fuels him when he sees Toronto on the schedule? Is it his ongoing feud with Hedo Turkoglu? Is it that thirst to best Turkoglu that serves as his primary motivation? What about the matchups whenever these teams play one another? Does he know he can pretty much own either Chris Bosh or Andrea Bargnani every time they meet in the paint or out on the perimeter?
The matchup option makes the most sense to me. Chris Bosh is one of the best in the NBA that you never hear about and Andrea Bargnani is starting to show signs of living up to the pressure of being the number one overall pick in the NBA draft. But neither are excellent defensive players (compared to guys like Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan in their primes), either inside or out along the three-point line. So when a guy as talented as ‘Sheed decides to exert himself and impose his will on the game, those two individual defenders don’t stand much of a chance of stopping him.
“They’re used to playing a 1 o’clock start,’’ Rivers said of the Raptors. “We talked about getting off to a great start, and we did, obviously, then they caught up. But I thought that was big for us, and then we closed the game out. There was one stretch in the fourth quarter where we kind of were playing the clock, and they almost got back into the game, and then we got a couple great stops.
“[Wallace] was phenomenal, big shots he made, post plays he made, I thought he was great defensively. [House and Wallace] are shooters – they can miss five in row, make five in a row. All we talk about, what we have on our board is, ‘If it’s your shot, take it. If it’s not, pass it.’ ’’
THE FAN presents the highlights (clip one courtesy Paul Jones) and game recap (clip two courtesy Eric Smith) of a 114-107 Boston Celtics’ win over the Toronto Raptors.