Journeyman Hedo Turkoglu knows days are numbered, seizes opportunity
In a profession that requires its employees to accept transition, it’s possible that new Clipper Hedo Turkoglu has found a place to settle down.
He has traveled plenty in 13 NBA seasons, making stops in Sacramento, San Antonio, Orlando, Toronto and Phoenix, but maybe Los Angeles is the spot where Turkoglu will find contentment — and his last best chance to win an elusive title.
There are no guarantees, but when Turkoglu signed with the Clippers on Jan. 16 and escaped a state of limbo, he seized the opportunity.
"I’m trying to do whatever it takes to help the team," he said. "We have a good group of guys, great coaches. Hopefully things will work out."
So far, they have. Turkoglu, 34, was a man without a team until the Clippers signed him. Having served a 20-game suspension last February for using a banned substance while recovering from a shoulder injury, Turkoglu was ordered by the Orlando Magic to stay away from the team this season.
Now, he’s appreciative for a chance to play again.
I’m damn sure not going to play that much longer. I just look at myself (and ask) where can I fit really well, how can I help, on and off the court?
"You can see he feels like this is the shot for him," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I’m very happy with his work."
Turkoglu is averaging just 2.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in his first nine games off the bench, but his ball handling and experience have already had an impact.
"I was surprised in his first game (with) his ball handling," Rivers said. "Usually when you miss the amount of games he’s missed, that’s the last thing that comes around because of the speed of the game. He’s making passes that make it look like he’s been playing all along. His shot is coming, too."
Rivers recalled a moment when Turkoglu was a calming influence on center DeAndre Jordan, who became unhinged after a play in a recent game.
"Before I got to him, Hedo ran out on the floor and grabbed him," Rivers said. "He told him he was wrong, that it’s the next play and let’s move on. I thought, ‘That’s a stranger talking to him.’ But they listen because they know he’s been around."
Turkoglu had the misfortune of playing his first seven games with the Clippers on their annual Grammy road trip. That meant hostile crowds, especially in Toronto, where he spent the 2009-10 season.
Finally at his new home, he said he was ready to feel appreciated by the Staples Center crowd.
"I know when I go out there, I try to do my best every time I step on the court," he said. "The rest is on them, to love me or to hate me."
The move to L.A. was undoubtedly made easier when his wife, Banu, found a place for their family to live while he was on the road. The couple has two daughters, ages 5 and 1.
"When you make a transition, you want everybody to be there when you’re going through that stuff," he said. "So you go through it together instead of just me coming in and getting settled. They’re here right now too and hopefully we’ll go through this (as a family)."
So far, it’s been smooth. Turkoglu, who was born in Turkey, has blended in well as he continues getting into basketball shape. He and the Clippers look like a good match, and his minutes are certain to increase as time goes on.
As he approaches the end of his career, maybe this is the right place for him.
"This is my 14th year," he said. "I’m damn sure not going to play that much longer. I just look at myself (and ask) where can I fit really well, how can I help, on and off the court?"
L.A. looks like the place.