Turkoglu looking to bounce back with Suns
AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) – The Phoenix Suns had been eyeing Hedo Turkoglu for years. He was big, athletic, could score, liked to pass and was good at it – a perfect fit for the style of basketball they played in the desert.
Phoenix made several attempts to get Turkoglu, even came close to signing him in 2004, but just couldn’t get a deal done.
Finally, the Suns got their man – in a trade with Toronto – and they can’t wait to see him on the court with two-time league MVP Steve Nash.
“He’s a player we’ve always coveted and we’re extremely happy to have him here,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said Wednesday at Turkoglu’s welcome-to-Phoenix news conference.
“He’s such a versatile player; we can use him as a ball-handler, we can use him as a screener, as a spot-up shooter, we can isolate him on the elbow and take advantage of a lot of things he can do.”
Turkoglu is the key cog in Phoenix’s rebuilding project in the wake of Amare Stoudemire’s departure.
A five-time All-Star and dominating presence in the lane, Stoudemire could score and rebound like few forwards in the league. He signed a massive free-agent contract with the Knicks and the Suns have tried to lessen some of the loss by bringing in the trio of Turkoglu, swingman Josh Childress and forward Hakim Warrick.
None are particularly adept at rebounding, but are versatile and fit the Phoenix up-tempo mode.
Turkoglu should be an interesting fit.
The Turkish forward is 6-foot-10, but plays more like a guard, spotting up for 3-pointers, slashing through the lane and whipping passes around the floor. Turkoglu has averaged 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and nearly three assists per game in his 10-year career and should give the Suns an alternate facilitator to go with Nash, who’s still one of the best players in the league but has been bothered by nagging injuries.
“They’re a good group of guys who like to play together and they have a good system with coach Alvin here,” said Turkoglu, recovering from minor gall bladder surgery earlier this month. “I’ve been watching the past years and they enjoy playing together and the style they play looks great to me.”
The big question is which version of Turkoglu will the Suns get.
Will it be the dynamic force who was the NBA’s most improved player in 2007-08 and helped guide the Magic to the 2009 Finals? Or will it be the going-through-the-motions player who saw his scoring average dip and was benched a game by the Raptors for being seen out on the town after claiming to be sick and missing a game before?
The Suns, of course, believe they’re getting the dynamic version, that Turkoglu will be re-energized playing in Phoenix’s on-the-gas system and with a fellow playmaker like Nash.
“I think you’ll see a player who will more than likely come back and play at a level he did at Orlando, right on the brink of winning a championship,” Gentry said.
Turkoglu’s versatility should give Phoenix more options on a team already filled with them.
Gentry said Turkoglu could play anywhere from shooting guard to center, depending on the situation and the opponent. He also should give Nash a chance to play off the ball a little more, become a spot-up shooter instead of having to dictate the offense almost nonstop.
In a certain sense, Turkoglu can become sort of a bigger version of Nash, giving opponents a second playmaker to focus on instead of just one.
“Hedo is very good at creating situations for other players and creating situations for himself,” Gentry said. “It just gives us another facilitator on the floor who can create plays.”