Turkoglu won't be surprised if Magic let him go
MIAMI — Hedo Turkoglu can sense the end is near.
The forward has played 7½ of his 13 NBA seasons with the Orlando Magic. But he knows there’s a good chance the team will part ways with him this offseason.
“That wouldn’t surprise me at all,’’ Turkoglu said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida before the Magic’s season finale Wednesday in Miami. “It’s just the situation sometimes you’re in on the payroll. ... I totally understand if they want to move me. We’re in a rebuilding situation with the young guys.’’
Although general manager Rob Hennigan said no final decision has been made, it appears very unlikely Turkoglu will return next season to the Magic. Not only are they rebuilding, but Turkoglu, 34, is coming off a disastrous season in which he averaged just 2.9 points in 11 games and hasn’t played since Feb. 4.
If Turkoglu is on the roster next season for the final one of his contract, he would be due $12 million. If bought out, the Magic would owe him just $6 million. Turkoglu seemingly also could be used as a trade chip for a team that might want to trim salary.
“I think to be determined,’’ Hennigan said Wednesday about Turkoglu’s future. “After the season, we’ll sit down with Hedo and with Jim (Tanner, Turkoglu’s agent). We’ll figure out what the best plan is. I really don’t have an answer for that at the moment. I think we’ll reach that decision in the coming weeks.’’
Turkoglu said he wouldn’t play in the finale against the Heat as the Magic continue to look at their young players in their first season since trading star center Dwight Howard to the Lakers last August. He sat out the final 2½ months of a season that included suffering a broken left hand in the opener, being suspended 20 games due to testing positive for an anabolic steroid and then not playing following his return.
“I had a great training camp,’’ Turkoglu said. “I prepared myself for the first game of the season, and then I broke my hand. Then after that, you get the suspension. If you look at it all around, a gone year.’’
Adding to that, the Magic were just 20-61 entering the finale. That was tied with Charlotte for the worst record in the NBA.
Turkoglu said he would be willing to stay with the Magic next season as a mentor to young players. But he realizes that doesn’t figure to happen.
“I just don’t know if I’m going to be here or not,’’ Turkoglu said. “If not, then it’s a new start for me too, somewhere else, and I just kind of expect that. And that’s a new challenge. If I’m going to stay here, I’ll have to be ready for next year and compete and try to get a spot and try to get playing time.’’
Regardless of what happens, the native of Turkey said he wants to play in the NBA next season.
“I hope so,’’ said Turkoglu, who said team officials in Turkey have been telling him he should finish his career before fans in his native land. “I don’t want to go back to Europe yet. Maybe in the future, but not right now. I still have a lot left here that I can do, a lot of good stuff in the league.’’
Even though his game has slipped in recent years, Turkoglu believes he still can play in the NBA for multiple additional seasons.
“A few more,’’ said Turkoglu, who led Turkey to a silver medal in the 2010 World Cup in Turkey and wants to play for his homeland again in the event in Spain in 2014. “Three the most. I got goals. I want to reach 1,000 games. That’s one of the goals for me. It would be a good accomplishment for me.’’
Turkoglu is at 897. He would need to play at least two more seasons to reach that milestone.
“I think he has that desire, so I think the mind’s a powerful thing,’’ Hennigan said about Turkoglu wanting to play multiple seasons more in the NBA. “So we’ll see.’’
Hennigan commended Turkoglu for his attitude during a trying season, calling him a guy “who’s really pleasant and very professional.’’ He lauded how Turkoglu looked in training camp before it all began to unravel when he broke his hand in the Nov. 2 opener against Denver.
“Unfortunate circumstances for him,’’ Hennigan said. “He came back and he was in great shape to start the year and then injured his hand and it kind of spiraled from there, some unfortunate circumstances. But he’s maintained a professional attitude, which says a lot about who he is as a person.’’
The broken hand kept Turkoglu out for 28 games before he returned Dec. 29. The 20-game suspension for testing positive for methenolone began Feb. 13 and cost Turkoglu, who is making $11.8 million this season, $2.15 million. He hasn’t played since becoming eligible again on March 29.
Even if it ends with this troubling season, Turkoglu will go down as one of the top players in Magic history. During his first stint with the team, from 2004-09, he won the Most Improved Player Award when he averaged 19.5 points in 2007-08, and he helped the Magic to the NBA Finals the next year.
Turkoglu then bolted the Magic as a free agent in the summer of 2009 and got a five-year, $53 million contract with Toronto. After a mediocre showing with the Raptors in 2009-10 and playing 25 games the next season with Phoenix, Turkoglu was reacquired by the Magic in December 2010.
Turkoglu never regained his previous form in his second go-around with the Magic, averaging just 10.4 points in 120 games. But he always has been one of the team’s more popular players.
“I can say I’ve appreciated all the good times here,’’ Turkoglu said. “And if they move me, then I have to move on and look for a better situation for me that I can still compete and contribute.’’
A Turkoglu departure would leave guard Jameer Nelson as the last remaining Magic player from the 2009 Finals. And it would result in Nelson and forward Glen Davis being the only holdovers from the Howard era.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.