The night when Hedo met Hello pretty much summed up one of the most unique times in Raptors history, a history that has featured more than its share of uniqueness.
Following a 106-104 win at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28, Hedo Turkoglu was asked to provide a post-game TV interview with Jack Armstrong.
One night, one flash point of what Turkoglu’s year-long legacy in Toronto would ultimately come to represent.
One night best remembered and forgotten.
The interview took an odd turn when Armstrong posed an innocuous question concerning the difference in Turkoglu’s game.
Replied Turkoglu: “Ball.’’
Nearly four seconds of awkward silence ensued before Armstrong had the, well, balls, to summon a follow up.
“The ball in your hands, and you did a lot with it,” Armstrong added.
Responded Turkoglu: “I’ve got nothing else to say.”
And there you have it, the defining moment in Turkoglu’s ill-fated time in Toronto.
An odd ball who never lived up to the billing, a good guy to deal with, but one who took too many liberties in an organization that was simply too soft.
Colangelo hasn’t just taken a broom to his roster, he’s gone to his closet and removed a vacuum cleaner, ridding himself of pieces he thought would address concerns, obliterating a core and giving himself much needed financial flexibility in the years to follow, assuming he’s around.
Say what you want about this image-conscious guy, but Colangelo does not stand still, will not stand and be an onlooker as teams around him get better.
No one knows what gains can possibly be achieved this season, but this air of mystery that now hovers the Raptors does make for an interesting time.
Are they good, are they bad, are they destined to miss the playoffs for the third year in a row, no one knows because no one knows how these pieces will work.
What is known is as obvious as the need for Bargnani to mature and assume he role that will ultimately make or break him.
What is known is the Raptors promise to be athletic and long, less inclined to get killed on the glass and abused in the paint, but certainly not as offensively gifted as they were with Bosh.
They actually appear a little more balanced, which isn’t a bad thing, a little more versatile, but their identity is far from being complete.
Colangelo simply had to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu and his onerous contract.
Colangelo had to simply admit he made a mistake in deciding Jose Calderon was a better fit than T.J. Ford.
The big four of Bosh, Calderon, Turkoglu and Bargnani from last season has now been whittled to one.
Bargnani can now move into his natural position at power forward, even if Tyson Chandler’s stay in Toronto amounts to just one season.
The arrivals of Chandler and Diaw would have created a logjam up front for the Raptors. They are both capable of playing centre, which would push Andrea Bargnani — now the longest tenured Raptor – to his natural power-forward spot, but that would cut the minutes available to play Amir Johnson and promising rookie Ed Davis. Diaw can play all three frontcourt positions, but would likely pair poorly with Bargnani since both are terrible rebounders.
Chandler has been hampered by injuries for several years, but maintains his bothersome toe is fully healed.
Barbosa is a shooting guard with the size of a point guard, but is not capable of running a team effectively. Jarrett Jack, Banks, Marco Belinelli and even Diaw are all better facilitators than Barbosa, one of the quickest players in the league and a solid long-range shooter.
It is unclear how successful this group will be if the full trade goes through, but it will certainly be athletic, defensive-minded and flashy, a far cry from recent Raptor outfits.
And the considerable money that would be saved down the line is nothing to sneeze at either. As long as whatever the amount saved turns out to be is used wisely.
League sources say the complex trade won’t be done until Tuesday at the earliest. The NBA must be satisfied it meets salary cap rules and the conference call to deal with that wasn’t held Monday. But sources have confirmed Toronto plans to move Turkoglu to Phoenix, Calderon and Evans to Charlotte and take back the Suns’ Barbosa and Diaw and Chandler from the Bobcats.
The moves will also leave intact the $14.5 million (all figures U.S.) trade exception the Raptors got from the sign-and-trade departure of Chris Bosh last week.
Colangelo has infused the roster with speed and defence, two sore points during a disappointing 41-41 season in 2009-10. With the team’s undisputed star gone, the GM seems intent on building a team of interchangeable parts rather than anointing one player as The Man, which has been the model starting with Damon Stoudamire, then Vince Carter and Bosh.
There will be a feeling of familiarity once the deal is done. Colangelo originally drafted Barbosa with the Suns. Diaw played there, too, and has long been a Colangelo favourite.
Barbosa is a combo guard, among the quickest players in the league, and gives coach Jay Triano another weapon to build a fast-paced offence.
Diaw, comfortable at any of the forward spots, is known as a versatile defender and excellent passer who could develop into a point forward role, the kind once envisioned for Turkoglu.
Chandler, in the last year of his contract, gives the Raptors another tall big man who fits the mould — up-tempo, athletic — Colangelo started to create with the re-signing of Amir Johnson and the drafting of Ed Davis.
While executives with the Raptors or the Charlotte Bobcats have yet to confirm the trade, multiple media outlets and even some of the players involved have said Toronto is putting together a multi-team deal that will see last year’s free agent signee-turned-disappoinment Hedo Turkoglu sent to the Phoenix Suns while Jose Calderon will be sent to the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Raptors would get guard Leandro Barbosa from the Suns, along with a traded player exception worth $2.7-million (all currency U.S.), while Charlotte is sending both Boris Diaw and center Tyson Chandler to Toronto.
It is expected that also going to Charlotte will be Reggie Evans, whose contract expires this season and would be necessary to make the trade work under NBA rules that require salaries to match.
The deal would seem to make the Raptors a bigger and higher scoring team, while also adding a rebounding, shot-blocking big man in the form of Chandler. Just as important it rids the Raptors of Turkoglu, who had become the focus of fan discontent during his first season in Toronto and perhaps most important provides significant financial benefits, saving Toronto nearly $25-million overall. Turkoglu and Calderon were owed about $40-million over the next four years and $30-million over the next three, respectively.
Barbosa is owed $14.7-million over the next two years and Diaw $18-million over same time frame, while Chandler is owed $13-million in the last year of his contract.
Barbosa, 27, was the 2006-07 sixth man of the year in the NBA, averaging 18.1 points and four assists while shooting 43.4 per cent from the three-point line. He was drafted by Colangelo when he was the general manager of the Suns.
Last season Barbosa played in just 44 games due to injuries to his ankle and wrist, and averaged 9.5 points and 1.5 assists in just 18 minutes a game while shooting 42.5 per cent, his worst production in five seasons.
Rebuild? Colangelo scoffed. No thanks. I’ll retool on the fly.
He always does. It worked magically in the summer of 2006-07 when he brought in 12 new players and crafted a team that won 47 games out of one that had won 27 the year before. But well enough was never good enough and each summer poured smoking liquid in and out of beakers, seeking something more perfect.
More three-point shooting? Let’s give Jason Kapono that big contract he so badly deserved. Need a big body to protect the rim and save wear and tear on Bosh? Trade for Jermaine O’Neal. More playmaking? Sign Hedo Turkoglu. More rebounding and some hard fouls? Trade for Reggie Evans. Need to appeal to Chris Bosh? Sign his buddy Jarrett Jack.
The only problem is that as the win totals slid Colangelo’s resourcefulness seemed like so much running on the spot. A two-time executive-of-the-year, sure, but he also eagerly committed $149-million to T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon, Turkoglu and Kapono. Talk about hangovers.
And finally it seemed it had caught up with him. Bosh was gone, seemingly prepared to sign for less money, if he had to, in order to play with his buddies in South Beach. And the Raptors were stuck.
The only problem with that scenario is it underestimates Colangelo’s sheer doggedness, a character trait that flies in the face of those who attribute his career arc more to his pedigree as second-generation NBA royalty than to his own abilities. Simply, he doesn’t know when to quit.
But even if they are Turkoglu-esque debacles — hide your cellphones in the club, ladies — Barbosa and Diaw’s contracts are both cheaper and shorter than those of Turkoglu and Calderon. If these turn out to be mistakes, they will be even more easily corrected.
(Admittedly, this is not a high bar, but hey, that’s life covering the Toronto Raptors.)
And if, as reported, this deal was accomplished without seriously sapping the US$14.5-million trade exception Toronto received in the sign-and-trade deal for Chris Bosh, that means that eventually, this team could poach a major contract from a team going nowhere.
Which means that all of us who dumped on Colangelo last week, and before, should admit he has had a hell of a few days. Even losing Bosh has been rehabilitated as it’s been revealed by The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Brian Windhorst that the Bosh-LeBron-Wade superfriends — or The Three Mi-Egos, as they’ve been dubbed — was in the works for years.
No superstars had ever voluntarily taken less money in their primes; no superstars had ever voluntarily ceded clear primacy before they were 30, and few even then. Hell, Cleveland won 66 and 61 games the past two years, and LeBron is from there, and he left. What chance did Toronto have?
Assuming the trade goes through, the two biggest roster question marks on the Raptors roster would be answered. Turkoglu asked for a trade on Turkish television in May after a disastrous first season as a Raptor — one that included allegations of grabbing a woman’s camera in a club, of going out on the town the evening after not playing in the game, plus an initial refusal to wear a protective mask, and general poor play. Despite that, Colangelo insisted he would have no problem bringing Turkoglu back.
Calderon, meanwhile, continued to devolve last year from his career peak of 2007-08. The Spanish guard’s defensive deficiencies looked worse than ever, and he lost his starting spot to Jarrett Jack for a good chunk of the season. Still, Colangelo insisted he did not feel the need to break up his point guard tandem.
Regardless of what one thinks of the on-court benefits, the deal is indisputably a financial home run. Not only has Colangelo rid the Raptors of those financial obligations, but he has given the team significant flexibility in the future. Calderon’s contract runs through 2013 and Turkoglu’s runs through 2014; Chandler’s deal expires after next season, while Diaw and Barbosa come off the books the following year.
Even better, it is likely the Raptors will be dumping those contracts without losing the US$14.4-million trade exception they gained when Bosh went to Miami last week. The Raptors can use the exception to acquire a player (or multiple players) of that value in a trade, regardless of salary-cap implications. That exception is valid for a calendar year. Look for the Raptors to go after a top-flight point guard or wing player with that chip.
Meanwhile, in Barbosa, Chandler and Diaw, the Raptors get increased roster flexibility, while staying under the luxury tax — for the moment, at least.
The sudden reluctance of Charlotte owner Michael Jordan has thrust the proposed Toronto-Charlotte trade into jeopardy, multiple league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night.
“Right now, Michael is having second thoughts,” a source with knowledge of the talks told Yahoo! Sports.
Is Colangelo’s latest concoction any good? The honest answer is that even the brightest of basketball minds are never sure how any random collection of players is going to mix. There were smart insiders celebrating Colangelo’s work a summer ago, and then came a 40-win flop. There were brains as big as former coach Sam Mitchell’s praising the arrival of Jermaine O’Neal two years ago, and then came the mid-season rejig. Chemistry, the kind you need in sports, is as much a science as patience is a Colangelo virtue.
Still, good teams often cite boring old roster continuity as a key to success. And until the Raptors have some — and if the deal goes through, the only player remaining from Colangelo’s 47-win executive-of-the-year season of 2006-07 will be Andrea Bargnani — they’ll be less than the sum of their newly assembled parts.
This corner has criticized Colangelo for his refusal to rebuild the club more comprehensively in the wake of Bosh’s exit, and to this eye it’s the most exciting course to chart. But the issue, as long as Colangelo is around, is a dead horse. He wants to make the playoffs now, not only because he is in a contract year and his bosses want both a season-ticket sales pitch and some post-season revenue, but also because he has the kind of competitive streak that won’t allow anything but dogged pursuit of success in the here and now. Colangelo, who has missed the playoffs two years in a row, is desperately seeking a winning season for the first time since 2007.
Come the fall there’s no reason why the Raptors couldn’t compete for one of the bottom few playoff seeds in the top-heavy East, especially given that Colangelo has more tools at his disposal, including the prospect of trade exceptions that could still fetch more talent.
Bobcats’ majority owner Michael Jordan has apparently thrown a monkey wrench into the much publicized deal that would have sent Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler to Toronto for Jose Calderon, Reggie Evans and a Traded Player Exception.
It seems Charlotte wants some future draft assets or a young player off of Toronto’s roster and the Raptors seems reluctant to comply.
The odds this deal gets done is still pretty high, it’s just going to require Toronto to come out of pocket a little and that may include tossing in some cash.
The Raptors deal to send Hedo Turkolglu to Phoenix does not seem effected according to sources, but there is an interesting wrinkle to the deal… According to sources close to the deal, Turkoglu’s former agent Lon Babby agreed to take the Suns’ President of Basketball Operations job but not before he got Turkoglu to agree to waive his 15% Trade Kicker and drop the final guaranteed year of the contract. In short Turk’s contract is now worth three more years and $31 million… shaving $12 million off the final years and saving the Suns a sizable trade bonus in the process.
Talk about buying your way out of a bad situation, Turkoglu did just that.
Talking to NBA observers from both Arizona and those who followed Hedo in Orlando and Toronto the concerns center around his poor attitude in Toronto and his ability to defend and rebound if the Suns play him at the power forward position.
It is certainly worrying when a guy who was a key contributor on the 2008 Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic goes to the Raptors with huge fanfare only to become persona-non-grata after only one season. The nice folks north of the border were thrilled at news that Hedo and his remaining contract were headed south.
The Raptors will be young, exciting and … probably pretty bad. But at least they have their pick and Miami’s and the potential to either exceed the luxury tax and trade for another good player, or sign a good player either next summer or in the summer of 2012, when they might be flush with cash.
This team has some talent, but lacks the star power to do anything big. It might fight for 8th or it might win only 30 games. Either way, the flexibility is now there to add a much-needed star down the line.
It’s a start, and a decent one with more likely to come.