Turkoglu fired up to test Artest
Sentinel Staff Writer
November 1, 2005
Hedo Turkoglu didn't serve in the Turkish Army in his homeland this summer to prepare for Ron Artest, but the training certainly didn't hurt.
"Yeah, I'm ready!" said Turkoglu, pounding his chest with his fist.
Turkoglu, a 6-foot-10 forward for the Orlando Magic, is one of those friendly, carefree athletes. "I have no worries," he said, often adding, "It's not the end of the world."
While Turkoglu might not have any worries, the coaching staff and Magic fans might be more than concerned about the spot in which Turk finds himself.
As if replacing small forward Grant Hill in the Magic's lineup wasn't enough, Turkoglu must match up against Artest in the season opener against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
The club said Hill had successful surgery to repair a sports hernia Monday in Philadelphia.
He will be out 3-6 weeks, meaning Turkoglu is being counted on to hold his own until Hill's return.
While Hill was preparing to launch another comeback from left-ankle problems, the Magic signed Turkoglu last summer as insurance.
Hill wound up playing 67 games, keeping Turkoglu in his role as sixth man for most of the 2004-05 season. Hill made the all-star team and averaged 19.7 points per game while Turkoglu was solid, averaging 14 points.
But with Hill facing a new medical issue, Turkoglu says he realizes critical eyes will be on him as he starts the season as a starter.
"I guess so," he said. "People saw what I did last year, and they're going to expect more than last year. They expect for me to step up. . . . I want to be strong until 'G' [Grant] comes back."
Magic Coach Brian Hill has had to tweak his offense, because Turkoglu offers a drastically different style than Grant Hill.
The Magic likely don't want to add more jump shots to their game plan, but spot-up shooting is the streaky Turkoglu's strength.
They lose Hill's trademark ability to drive to the basket -- which can equal easy points and free throws -- and his mid-range game.
"Grant probably puts a little bit more pressure on the defense because of his ability to penetrate," Brian Hill said. "Hedo is more of a spot-up shooter. We're trying to get him to do those things [that Grant does] . . . to drive-and-kick and not hold the basketball for a long period of time, to make quick decisions.
"We have to do some things offensively to accommodate Hedo that maybe we wouldn't run when Grant is on the floor."
But where Turkoglu will be put to the test is on defense, which, admittedly, is not his strong suit.
Hill is a little better defender, but every small forward has trouble handling the 6-8 Artest, regarded as one of the league's best defenders.
"He's a beast," Brian Hill said.
Artest has muscled up to 265 pounds and is rumored to have a wild streak in him.
Of course, Artest was suspended for most of last season after igniting a brawl in Detroit that spilled into the stands and embarrassed the NBA.
It was just the latest act of bizarre behavior from Artest.
At least in the preseason, he has made good on his promise to reform.
Artest will be playing in his first regular-season game since the Motown Meltdown and, well . . . lucky Turkoglu.
"I bet he'll come out real aggressive," Turkoglu said, only half laughing.
"It's a good challenge for me. I've played against him before [when Turkoglu was with Sacramento and San Antonio], but it wasn't for as long a period as it will be now."
Turkoglu figures he's tougher, too.
He spent about a month with the Turkish Army this summer, fulfilling his country's mandatory military obligation. Although he spent time signing autographs, posing for pictures and being a celebrity, he learned hand-to-hand combat and to shoot guns.
"I had shot small ones before, but not the big ones," he said. "I shot -- what do you call it? -- a machine gun."
Hedo Turkoglu needs to have his full arsenal against Ron Artest.
NOTES: Center-forward Tony Battie, recuperating from minor injuries from a car accident Friday, had to stop practicing Monday after being hit on his sore left hand. He received cuts on the hand in the rollover wreck. Kelvin Cato -- the incumbent starter who is recovering from shoulder surgery -- will start if Battie can't. . . .
The Magic waived centers Ken Johnson and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje to reach the mandatory 15-player roster limit. Because center Mario Kasun (right ankle stress reaction) is out, the club probably would have kept one of them, but Grant Hill's hernia surgery forced the Magic to go with another wing player. . . . Guard Keyon Dooling (right heel bruise) likely will miss the opener. . . .
Forward Stacey Augmon, who had hernia surgery a month ago, likely will not return until mid-December.
Brian Schmitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be careful what you wish for, Hedo!