welcome back to T.O. turk ? not likley

The look on his face was equal parts bewilderment and shock as

Hedo Turkoglu was booed by a sellout crowd in Vancouver.

As he trotted out to the rude reception, it was as if the former

Raptor hadn’t expected any reaction

at all before the pre-season game, let alone the hostile welcome he


He ain’t seen nothing yet.

Turkoglu and the Phoenix Suns are in Toronto to play the

Raptors again Sunday afternoon and

if there’s a sure thing in the world, it’s that the free-agent

washout will be treated with disdain bordering on outright hatred

the minute he walks on the court. It’s kind of a tradition.

Turkoglu is about to join a pantheon of former Toronto players

treated harshly when they come back. Surprised should have been the

last thing Turkoglu felt in Vancouver, having seen first-hand how

Toronto fans treat his one-time Orlando teammate, Vince Carter.

Nothing the 31-year-old Turkoglu has done since last season will do

anything to lessen the reaction he gets Sunday. He has refused to

take much responsibility for a disastrous one-year tenure in

Toronto after signing a five-year, $53 million U.S. deal. He was

highly critical in an off-season interview from his native Turkey,

suggesting there were deep-rooted issues that made the

Raptors organization one players

would avoid.

If anything’s become evident over the years, it’s that

Raptors fans detest departed

underachievers who take potshots on their way out of town.

Turkoglu’s time with the Suns – traded in July for Leandro

Barbosa – hasn’t been the greatest success story so far. While he

hasn’t gone as far as to suggest he isn’t being used correctly,

he’s very much finding his way at both ends of the floor. Of his

offence, he told the Arizona Republic:

“I’m so open. I think, ‘Damn, should I take this shot? It’s the

first pass. Or should I drive and kick?’ As time goes by, I will

learn that’s a good shot because Steve (Nash) drew my man and


Defensively? “I’m learning the defensive rules – showing,

getting back, switching, denying, getting in front. Those kind of

things, I never did before.”

Not in Toronto, at least, where fans are sure to remember his

passivity and lack of impact. Seeing how others before him have

been treated, there’s no way Turkoglu can be surprised by what

transpires Sunday.



How he left: In a trade for Eric Williams, Aaron Williams,

Alonzo Mourning and two first-round draft picks on Dec. 7,


Why he left: Dissatisfied with the direction of the franchise,

playing for his fourth coach in seven seasons, he had asked for a

trade in September before being moved.

How he returned: As the most vilified player in franchise

history. Booed every time he touches the ball no matter what he’s

doing or who he’s playing for, the former darling of the fans is

Public Enemy No. 1.

First game back: Feb. 25, 2005 as a member of the New Jersey

Nets, Carter scored 22 points on 8-for-25 shooting from the field

in 40 minutes as Toronto won 100-82.

His reaction: Bemusement at first, he now seems miffed at

incessant questions about his time in Toronto and the fallout from

his departure.



How he left: In a sign-and-trade for a future first-round draft

pick on Aug. 3, 2000.

Why he left: After toying publicly with the idea of returning,

he bailed on the franchise to return to his Orlando hometown. Never

a fan of living in Toronto, he wanted a chance to escape the shadow

of his cousin, Carter.

How he returned: To raucous boos and open hatred. There was no

good-natured booing, just raw emotion as he came back on April 1,

2001 to score 24 points with seven rebounds as the Magic won


His reaction: He’s always used the fans’ anger as a source of

inspiration, professing to love playing the role of the villain.

He’s still booed vociferously whenever he’s in town and that isn’t

likely to change when he comes back with the Detroit Pistons this




How he left: In a trade along with Walt Williams and Carlos

Rogers to Portland for Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, Kenny Anderson,

two first-round draft picks, a second-round draft pick and cash on

Feb. 13, 1998.

Why he left: He had been so connected to Isiah Thomas that when

Thomas left in November, 1997 it was only a matter of time before

the former rookie of the year asked to be moved and it took then-GM

Glen Grunwald almost to that year’s trade deadline to find the

right deal.

How he returned: It took a while, since it was late one season

when he left and the next year was shortened by a lockout.

Stoudamire finally came back on Jan. 4, 2000 and was the first

player to hear outright anger from the fans. It was so bad, he was

walked a different way from the visitors’ bench to his locker room

to avoid confrontations. He had 22 points in 29 minutes of a 114-90

Portland win.


reaction: Indifference tinged with anger.

He professed originally not to care what the fans thought but

later admitted to being hurt by the reaction of the spectators.

At the other end of the spectrum . . .



In his first game back after leaving as free agent, he endeared

himself to the fans by dashing out to mid-court and kissing the

Raptors logo. How could you not love

the guy?



The dude’s nickname is the Red Rocket, a man of the people who

rode the TTC, married a Toronto girl and wanted to play for

Canada’s national team. Watch out, Mo, there’s someone gaining on



The T-shirts he used to rip off were the most valuable souvenirs

a fan could get and to this day, when he’s back in Toronto, he’s

mobbed by people who remember his energetic hockey mentality.