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Addressing Concerns About Hedo Turkoglu

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Reaction to news that the Suns traded Leandro Barbosa for Hedo Turkoglu has been mixed among fans.

A poll at Suns blog Bright Side of the Sun has 42 percent of the 2000-plus respondents liking both the Childress and Turkoglu deals, while 44 percent liked Childress, but have concerns about Hedo.

Talking to NBA observers from both Arizona and those who followed Hedo in Orlando and Toronto, the concerns center around his poor attitude in Toronto and his ability to defend and rebound if the Suns play him at the power forward position.

It is certainly worrying when a guy who was a key contributor on the 2008 Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic goes to the Raptors with huge fanfare only to become persona-non-grata after only one season. The nice folks north of the border were thrilled at news that Hedo and his remaining contract were headed south.

The incident that galvanized fans' anger towards Hedo happened in March 2010 when he missed a game due to a stomach virus only to be seen in a night-club later that evening. Hedo had an explanation and described his frustration in an interview with a Turkish TV station, which was translated by Canadian sports outlet, The Score. It's worth a read.

Regardless of this late-season incident, Hedo didn't fit in well with the Raptors system and the way he handled the situation sullied his reputation.

The Suns, according to sources, feel that one poor year should not be used as the gauge of Turkoglu's entire career. In Orlando, he was able to play up to his full potential as a play-maker, while with the Raptors he was asked to play a much more limited role that he felt insulted his skills.

Hedo demonstrated his desire to come to Phoenix when he waived $5 million of his trade-kicker and agreed to reduce by half the amount of guaranteed money in the final year of his contract. He essentially gave up $10 million to come to the Suns.

The belief is that is evidence of his motivation to play for the Suns in a system where he can be the secondary ball handler for a coach and system that is known for getting the most out of its players, as opposed to limiting their potential.

With Hedo motivated and back to playing up to his full potential, the Suns expect that he can rack up assists as he moves the ball and creates scoring opportunities for his teammates.

This mindset where players become frustrated when they are in roles that don't maximize their skills isn't uncommon. Boris Diaw had similar issues when he was asked to come off the bench in a limited capacity after having an outstanding season as a starter in 2005/06 when Amare Stoudemire was injured. Rudy Fernandez is rumored to have similar frustrations with the Trail Blazers.

In the right situation -- which Phoenix hopes it can provide -- Hedo is expected to return to his performance levels with the Magic when he averaged 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and five assists in the 2007-08 season.

The second concern is rebounding and defense.

Hedo has typically played the small forward position, where he has at times struggled defending quicker players. The Suns hope that at power forward, he can use his size and intelligence to hold his own. The team also feels that with Hedo, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson, they can switch a lot of screens.

Rebounding will have to be done by committee, with Grant Hill and Jason Richardson continuing to pick up some of the slack as they did last season when Amare and Channing Frye were on the floor together. The Suns won't be a better rebounding team with Hedo replacing Amare at power forward, but with improvement from Robin Lopez and an active Turkoglu keeping his own man off the glass, the team might not be worse.

It should be noted that when he was with Orlando in a good situation, Hedo was known for his effort on the defensive end of the floor. What he lacked in speed and athleticism he made up for with an extremely high basketball IQ.

Turkoglu is coming off a very frustrating situation in Toronto where, according to the interview with Turkish TV, he felt that he was treated unfairly by the team. He should have a chip on his shoulder to prove that he can return to form and with the Suns will be playing with and for Steve Nash and Alvin Gentry, who are known for flexibility and creativity and maximizing a player's potential.

That could be a recipe for success for Hedo in Phoenix.