Ball Don't Lie - NBA

He was never that great.

He was good, I guess, but save for one year at age 28 (most players' peak season), he just wasn't too good. Average, sure. Very good on some nights, but average as an average. And nobody bothered to pay attention.

Well, some did. John Hollinger. Otis Smith. Various bloggers, sages and scribes. But beyond that? Hedo Turkoglu(notes) was on TV a lot, and for some reason this changes things. He was on TV constantly starting from his time as a youngster with the Sacramento Kings (who were put on national TV more than anyone else in the early part of the 21st century), through a spell with the Spurs and then onto Dwight Howard's(notes) Orlando Magic. It made a difference.

Then he played 24 playoff games for the Magic last season, most of them not on NBA TV, and man? That was all she wrote.

Hedo never left our TVs, and because what's on TV must by extension be good and valid and worth our time, Hedo must be good. Or great, even.

To the tune of two teams — two general managers who had received more fawning praise than any two other general managers in the entire NBA that I can think of — trying to toss an extended, guaranteed deal that would pay Hedo Turkoglu eight figures a year to play basketball on their teams until his mid-30s.

And, beyond the TV thing, I still can't tell you why.

Besides summertime ennui, ego, the absence of the "advanced" (really, it's not) statistical starter set, and, well ... I've to stop making excuses. Signing Hedo Turkoglu was a terrible move, and anyone with their head on straight last summer knew it.

I rarely have my head on straight, but that didn't preclude me from warning about this to no end last July. The guy, on his career, averages about 15 1/2 points with nine combined rebounds and assists when he plays 36 (starters) minutes. Combine that with his iffy, at best, defense? The pace in which his teams have played? And you have an average player.

This isn't to excuse the dropoff in production. Turkoglu has been terrible this season. Absolutely awful on defense, below average offensively (about 12 points, four boards, four assists in 31 minutes), and he's rightfully drawn the ire of Raptors fans less than a full season into his first year with Toronto.

(Well, he drew their ire less than a full month into his first season, but the enmity is starting to run hot and heavy at this point.)

Trey's post from earlier today sums it up pretty expertly, but there's also this well-placed missive, from Eric Wagman over at Outside the NBA that just nails Hedo right where he's supposed to be hit. Let me quote a bit:

As far as mitigating circumstances go, there are none better than those annoying things we need to do our work but have no control over: our co-workers. In real-life work settings, no matter what our industry, job or pay scale, we all know some people who just drive us up the wall. The people who have seniority and don't seem to ever do anything other than hang out by the coffee machine. The people who never get asked to do ‘special projects', who seem to escape the criticism that accompanies the rest of the employees. The people that seem ‘untouchable.' The people who never seem to do anything, but when it's job-cutting time they always seem safe and when it's pay-raise time they always show up. And while they never show up with a bunch of coffees for the rest of us, they'll be first in line when someone brings in a box of doughnuts.

You know someone like this, I know someone like this, we all know someone like this. Well, the Toronto Raptors have someone like this. His name is Hedo Turkoglu.

So now, fans and countrymen and followers and fanatics, can you begin to understand just how debilitating an influence Hedo is? No? Well, then please read on. Eric did fantastic work with this post.

This can't help but get worse. Hedo isn't daffy, like Stephon Marbury(notes) was, so we won't see that level of weirdness. But he's also not athletic, overrated and quite clearly unmotivated. And Stephon, for all his faults, was still a pretty productive player a couple years before his contract went pop.

Turk? He's shot, right now. And he'll make $12 million in 2014. 2014! Raptor fans, almost to an attendee, would drop a tenner in a hat during every home game from here until the end of the season (playoffs, stop laughing, included) if it meant that money could go toward some sort of buyout for Hedo — and we're in 2010. What's this mess going to look like in 2014?

Remember, he was never very good to begin with, and though Turkoglu is tall and can sometimes shoot, even this guy at his absolute best from the ages of 31-to-35 will be nothing but rather awful. Relative the contract. And that's the best-case scenario.

And yet the team has another $43.8 million to pay him over the next four years. It's such a colossal bust that it almost seals Raptor GM Bryan Colangelo's take in our eyes. I don't care if the Raps are a 70-win team despite Hedo's presence, Turk's contract alone is worth a deciding opinion. And if it isn't enough for you, darlings, consider that Jose Calderon(notes) and Andrea Bargnani(notes) will average nearly $20 million a year combined for the next three seasons, with Bargs' terrible deal moving toward 2015.

No cap room, no promise, no hope, and that's not even getting into the Chris Bosh(notes) situation. Would you like me to? If you're a fan of a team that could sign Bosh this summer, are you afraid his particular well has been poisoned? Because his play over the last month suggests it.

It starts with being smart. It always has. And the Raptors just didn't have that last summer. The Trail Blazers didn't, either, but they were given a reprieve because Hedo wanted to stay somewhat close to the Eastern seaboard.

As nasty as it is right now — with Hedo stealing money in the first year of his contract, blaming fans, playing terribly, and partying the night after calling off sick for work — this will only get worse. Even if the guy shapes up and gets everything right.

"Everything right." I mean it. Even that won't be enough. Do you know why?

Because he's not that great.

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