Turkoglu talks Howard, future in Orlando
Ask Magic guards J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson about Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers and they bristle.
“I have no take,’’ Redick said.
“I have nothing to say about the Lakers or any player on the Lakers team,’’ Nelson said.
But ask Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu about Howard and he beams. Turkoglu, who played with Howard during 6 1/2 of his eight Magic seasons, remains good friends with the center who asked to be traded and eventually was shipped last August to the Lakers.
The two talk on the phone. They text.
“We’re friends,’’ Turkoglu said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida. “We talk about things like health, family.’’
While there remain bad feelings in Orlando about how Howard exited, none are coming from Turkoglu.
“He’s a good guy,’’ Turkoglu said. “I played with him for a long time and he’s a really good person. It was just he was in a bad situation last year. I was just happy that he moved on and we moved on as an organization, and I know he’s going to do a great job (with the Lakers).’’
Obviously things haven’t worked out well for Howard so far in Los Angeles. Entering Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, the Lakers were just 15-20. Of course, that’s still better than Orlando (12-23), which has lost 10 straight games.
Howard will miss his third straight game Friday due to a torn labrum in his shoulder. He won’t be back until next week at the earliest.
Howard’s scoring average is down from 20.6 last season to 17.3 and his rebounding has fallen from 14.5 to 12.4. But even before Howard’s most recent injury, Turkoglu said it’s been clear Howard, who underwent back surgery last spring, hasn’t been healthy.
“He’s hurt,’’ Turkoglu said of Howard this season. “He’s not healthy. I’ve been with Dwight since he was drafted (2004), so this is not him. When he gets healthy, 100 percent, he’s the best big man out there. Whenever he gets healthy, we’ll see a lot of great numbers from him.
“You can see he’s not 100 percent. He’s a step slow. With his movement, you can see his back is bothering him and now he’s going through a shoulder injury, too. He’s having a tough time right now, but I know he’s a strong guy and he’ll bounce back and have a great year.’’
Turkoglu, who left for 1 1/2 years before coming back, Redick and Nelson are the only Magic players remaining from the 2009 Howard-led team that lost in the Finals 4-1 to the Lakers. Those three, forward Glen Davis and guard Ish Smith are the only players left from last year’s Orlando outfit.
So who will be the next to go in the Magic’s youth movement? Redick, a seven-year veteran who is earning $6 million in the last year of his contract, is seeing his name regularly in trade rumors.
When asked if he wants to be dealt, Redick said, “No.’’ When then asked if he likes it in Orlando, he said, “Well, I like winning.’’
The Magic gladly would part with Turkoglu. But Turkoglu could probably only be traded if he’s packaged with an intriguing player, considering he’s making $11.8 million this season and has a player option next season for $12 million.
Turkoglu, 33, averaged a pedestrian 10.9 points last season. This season, still rounding into form after having recently missed 28 games due to a broken left hand, Turkoglu is averaging a meager 4.0 points over 20.0 minutes.
“This is business,’’ Turkoglu said of trade rumors surrounding him. “I’ve been in the league 13 years, it’s not upsetting. This organization is trying to move on for the future, for the young guys. If they want me to stick around, I’ll do my best to help with the young guys and use my experience.’’
If Turkoglu can’t be dealt, it remains to be seen if a buyout eventually might be arranged. The Magic already have used their one-time amnesty move on Gilbert Arenas. And they did eat two years and $5.4 million remaining on Quentin Richardson’s contract when he was waived last October.
“I feel comfortable in Orlando,’’ said Turkoglu. “I had my great years in Orlando. I have a good relationship with the fans. The fans support me all the time, the entire organization. But, in the end, it’s a business. Whatever they’re trying to do, I’ll try to do my best, either helping them (if) staying or, if they have to move me, they’ll move me ... This is not upsetting me.’’
Nelson, though, wonders if it might be wearing on the forward. Turkoglu was in trade rumors throughout last season before he eventually wasn’t one of the four total players shipped out in the Howard deal. And now the uncertainty around him has continued.
“I’m quite sure it’s tough (on Turkoglu),’’ said Nelson, who at least appears to be safe after having signed a three-year, $25 million contract last summer. “We all as a unit last year went though a tremendous amount of adversity and a tremendous amount of uncertainty. But he’s nothing but a professional ... He carries himself that way on and off the court.’’
So that’s Nelson’s take on Turkoglu. As for one on Howard, Nelson and Redick have nothing to offer.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson