Saturday, January 4, 2014

Farewell Hedo, May You 'Turkey Dance' off into the Sunset

If you don't know by now, Hedo Turkoglu was officially waived by the Magic on Friday in order to avoid having to fully pay Turk his $12 million owed to him this season. Not only is a roster spot free now, but Orlando is now under the salary cap. It's a quiet ending for a man with a lot of passion and charisma for the game he loved and made a damn good living off of. The last time the 34-year-old ever played for the Magic was February 4, 2013. Hedo has been kept away from Jacque Vaughn's roster and the Amway Center facilities for the entire 2013-2014 campaign. The franchise he helped grow has no more use for an overpaid aging hero. The Sentinel got some goodbye quotes from Hedo.

“In my head, I know one thing: For all these years, I gave everything I could for this organization and for this city. That makes me happy. I want to thank everybody I can in Orlando for all these years. 
“I don’t want to miss anybody. That’s why I want to say ‘everybody.’ 
“But, first, I want to start with Rich and Helen DeVos and all the DeVos family for all these years for making us feel [like] a part of the family. We were given tremendous support. 
“In the city of Orlando, the fans, they’ve been really great to me. . . . That makes me [feel] really special, and I want to thank them for every great moment I had here with them on and off the court. It was special to me. It’s good memories I will never forget. . . . 
“It was good days. Those days will never come again. Those people will always be special in my life. And Orlando will always be my second home. After Istanbul, Orlando will always be my second home. We love this city as a family. It’s been great years for me here. All these people, they were always behind me in the ups and downs. 
“They were really making my job easier with all the support and all this love. It was just making my job easier to produce on the court. . .  
“I want to say one more thing to the people that worked behind the scenes, all the people that make it happen that make me able to connect to the community in Orlando. I want to thank all these people that work for Orlando that make it happen. They do most of the work. We just show up and try to do our part, but they usually do their part more than us. . . . 
“Even when I stop playing, Orlando will always be a special place in my career, in my life, because I had the most time, the most success [in] my career when I was in Orlando. Pretty much the best memories in my basketball career.”

We all still love Adonal Foyle, but I’m glad we didn’t give him Hedo’s initial Magic contract. Yeah, that almost happened. Oh man what we almost missed out on. Lost in the shuffle of acquiring Dwight and Jameer and the trading away of Tracy McGrady, was quite an important free agency signing made by John Weisbrod on July 14, 2004. Hedo's first 4 seasons before arriving in Orlando were already monumental for a man carrying the flag of Turkey. He was a key piece in those phenomenal Rick Adelman-led Kings teams that came oh so close to overthrowing the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, as well as temporarily being on the Spurs during their period of dominance (though no title rings for Turk). 

Magic stats from John Denton:
"Turkoglu averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his 497-game career with the Magic. Over the team’s 25-year history, Turkoglu ranks sixth in games played (497), fourth in minutes played (16,234), sixth in points (7,198), seventh in field goals made (2,510), fourth in 3-pointers made (794), sixth in free throws made (1,402), fifth in rebounds (2,221), sixth in assists (1,927) and ninth in steals (425). He also had the most triple-doubles in franchise history with three."

Turk went from a Sixth Man of the Year candidate off the bench, to a starter, to one of the best point forwards of the new millennium at his prime which spanned a far too brief 3 years. Stan Van Gundy loved and hated Hedo probably a dozen times during the span of one game. But SVG knew how valuable a focused and motivated Turk was and he handed over much of the offensive reins over to Turk's hands to assert himself and carry the team when needed. His Most Improved Player of the Year season in 2007-2008 should have also included an All-Star appearance, especially considering the Eastern Conference awards he was racking up. 

Could Hedo have been better in the '09 Finals? Sure, but he he still had his moments and the Magic never would have gotten there without him. Look at the game logs from the 2009 postseason. It's insane how good this man was. Even when Otis brought Hedo back for the 2nd time, Hedo still had some shake weight triple-double spark left in him during that massive win streak following the '10-'11 Phoenix trade. Hedo has had a long and prosperous career. Those years in Turkey, playing for the national team constantly while still being in the NBA, eventually caught up. There's always going to be added wear-and-tear when you're a national hero. 

I’m going to miss how ‘Hedo’ would be auto-corrected to ‘Jedi’ on my iPhone. I’m going to miss his old military pictures and the hundreds of pizza puns. I'm going to miss all of his clutch momentsSo freaking clutch. I didn't get to interview Turk much, but I'll miss all of them. Even the sad chats. Then of course we have the hilarious interviews. I'm going to miss his deceptive athleticism. I'm going to miss all of those countless alley oops he'd connect with Dwight on. I'll miss following Hedo at EuroBasket or at the FIBA World Championships no matter how painful it was to watch. 

My most watched (by far) YouTube video posting ever was thanks to Turk. You’re not truly an Orlando citizen if you haven’t even once caught a glimpse of Hedo and his wonderful family in public, or shared a drink or casual chat with Turkey Dance when he wasn't practicing or playing games. He’s a popular human being for countless reasons, all very positive. Now, after hearing the news of him being waived, most fans in Central Florida will gladly do their best to quickly erase all memory remnants of the PEDs situation. We can once more remember the great Turk times and not be bogged down with the dead salary on his contract or his waning talents and athleticism.

Hedo won’t be gone forever. There’s a place for Turk to return and be honored in the future Magic Hall of Fame. Just like with Dwight, it’s all about time. Turkoglu is the best Small Forward in this franchise's 25-year history. Of course he'll be given his high praise when the dark cloud over him dissipates. It's a tiny blemish on an otherwise phenomenal career. If you disagree with that, then you need to re-evaluate how you analyze the game of basketball. 

Hidayet Türkoğlu. Whether you retire, play overseas, or even manage to join another NBA team and extend your professional stay in the league, know that there is an enormous group of Magic fans that will forever appreciate your service to this young franchise. 

So from a Greek to a Turk, cheers to you, Hedo.

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