I'll admit to not being a big Hedo Turkoglu fan over the years. He did a lot of things well and clearly is a unique player, but for some reason I just didn't "click" with him as a remote observer of his game.
Last summer when he turned down Portland's overtures to take a slightly bigger deal in a more "cosmopolitan" city - loved by his wife Banu in part because it was five hours closer to Turkey - my reaction was good riddance; Toronto overpaid for him.
Hedo - by all accounts, including his own - came to his first season with the Raptors unprepared for the season and things went downhill from there. By the time his first year north of the border was complete, the fans and media and team were thrilled to see him go and the felling was mutual. Hedo wanted out. Toronto wanted him out.
This is from the Raptors.com senior writer, Mike Ulmer.
You were supposed to be a spicy wing player who could devour clunky defences. You turned out to be a chunky player who devoured spicy wings.
Could you image the Suns organization ever allowing its web site to trash a player like this? Not a chance.
In walks the Suns, who missed out on bringing Hedo to play with Steve Nash in 2004, and have loved him ever since.
Perhaps Coach Gentry is a bit misty-eyed, like the once-scorned lover, but he made it quite clear how much Hedo passion he still has, "He's one of those players who can keep us at the level we were at last year."
Alvin is setting the bar high and talking up Turkoglu's versatility, "I think he will play multiple positions. Two, three, four and maybe even some five. Whatever you need at the time, you can plug him in and he'll get it done for you."
Hedo said his about his varied role, "I really don't mind as long as I'm out there trying to do my best. Not just my scoring, but things I'm really good at like being facilitator."
You expect some of this at introductory press conferences, but with Alvin, you typically don't get too much spin. He'll say what he means or he won't say anything at all.
Talking about defense is where Gentry's words start to get a bit more shaky, when he played up how Hedo will help on that end of the floor, "He's a super intelligent player, as far as angles, and defensively, I think he can add something to the mix in that department, also."
Not the second coming of Shawn Marion, but not a complete defensive disaster, either.
Keeping Hedo Happy
It all seems to come down to motivation and keeping Hedo happy.
When asked about his time in Toronto, Hedo didn't want to spend too much time dwelling on the past, "Last year was last year. I put that behind. Right now, it's a new page for me. A new beginning. A new start for everything. I'm just excited about it."
What Turkoglu would say echoed what his former agent and new boss said yesterday, "I guess the chemistry wasn't there for both sides and I guess I really (wasn't) used how I am really capable of doing stuff on the court."
Why will it be different with the Suns?
We don't know that and we won't know until we see it on the court next season. We don't know how the Suns will adjust to him and we don't know if being asked to facilitate the ball so Nash can take advantage of his shooting prowess will really pan out.
Nash is known for being an unselfish player and Hedo certainly sees himself the same way. But both of these guys ideas about being unselfish involve having the ball and creating shots for teammates. In the world of the NBA, passing is seen as unselfish, but for two guys who grew up soccer fans and players, the key isn't who scores the ball, it's who has the ball.
We'll see how much sharing of the load Nash really is willing to do, especially in crunch time. He eventually came to trust Dragic more and more and didn't mind sitting on the bench when his young protege was playing well in the fourth quarter, but that took time and Goran, as the new kid, understood the process. He knew he had to prove himself worthy of the master's trust. How patient will a 31-year-old Hedo be?
That dynamic between Hedo and Nash will be key. The guy who loves his pre-game pizza and the guy who famously doesn't eat any sugar at all and got the entire team to switch to organic health food for their catering - they are an odd couple, for sure.
All the smiles aside, these are two alpha males who will want the ball in their hands in crunch time. We saw it fail with Nash when Shaq came to town and if the Hedo experiment doesn't work, this will likely be the reason why.
But for now, everyone is all smiles and positive thinking. Coach Gentry and his new boss Lon Babby understand how to keep big egos happy and Nash is still Nash.
"I will come back here and work my butt off and try and raise my level again like it was a couple of years ago," Hedo said. "This is my job and I love what I'm doing."
He wants to prove that he's the unselfish team guy who had great chemistry with his teammates in Orlando and Sacramento. He wants to prove that the bad relationship in Toronto was a fluke and not an indictment. He will be motivated to make it work.
Let's hope it does.
Pizza Pizza, etc.
As for the most important Hedo question, I asked him if he's found a source for his pizza habit, "Not yet. Not yet. I'll have time."
Hedo will wear No.19 for the Suns, a number most recently worn by Raja Bell. Turkoglu said he changed his uniform number as part of his fresh start.
Hedo will be the captain for the Turkish National Team during the World Championships next month, which will be held in Turkey. He's very excited about that and hopes he can at least medal in what he said will be his last time playing for his country.
The gall baldder issue first came up in 2004 when he had problems with reflux. He had a large gall stone at the time, which got smaller and broke up until it got to where it posed a potential hazard. The surgery was preventative and he's feeling great. He looked tanned and a bit thinner perhaps than I remembered.