When the Toronto Raptors open their season against the Cleveland Cavaliers Oct. 28, the Air Canada Centre crowd will get its first glimpse of all-star forward Hedo Turkoglu in a game that matters.
The nine-year veteran was brought in by GM Bryan Colangelo during the off-season for his scoring ability, potential to create matchup problems and defensive prowess.
But until the regular season tips off next month, Raptors coach Jay Triano doesn’t want to exhaust Turkoglu, who helped lead the Orlando Magic to an NBA finals appearance and then played for his native Turkey at the European Championships.
“There’s no point beating him down in October here, after the summer that he had and the last four months that he’s played, all the way back to June, pretty intense basketball,” Triano said to the Canadian Press at the team’s training camp facility in Ottawa.
“We’re just going to ease him back in and make sure we don’t wear him down.”
Colangelo says Turkoglu is currently suffering from quadriceps tendinitis and could be out for most of training camp. All-star power forward Chris Bosh is also on the shelf with a strained hamstring.
“Right now I’m just trying to manage myself and try to look for the long picture and try to be more fresh and more healthy for the long coming season,” Turkoglu said to the Canadian Press.
“I don’t want to be like this, but in the end it will be the best for the Raptors.”
In 77 regular-season games last season, Turkoglu averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4.9 assists. He carried the success into the playoffs, where he averaged 15.8 points during the Magic’s Finals run.
The native of Turkey is one of nine new Raptors players, as Colangelo decided to remake the roster following a disappointing 33-49 campaign.
After the drafting of shooting guard DeMar DeRozan with the ninth overall pick in June, Turkoglu was brought over in a four-team deal that saw former Raptor Shawn Marion head to the Dallas Mavericks.
Point guard Jarrett Jack and a familiar name in Rasho Nesterovic were later signed as free agents.
Along with other trade acquisitions in shooting guard Marco Belinelli and power forwards Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson, expectations are high once again in Raptorland.
Turkoglu understands with all the new faces, the team will need some time to mesh together
“I know we’re going to have some tough times because if you look at the team right now, with me we have nine new guys, and the other three guys are new for me too, Chris, Andrea [Bargnani] and Jose [Calderon],” Turkoglu said.
“It’s not going to be solved in a few days in training camp but throughout October when we play together and practice, we’ll get to know each other better as a person and a player too.
“The big picture is making this team a playoff contender, and I think we’re capable of that.”
Up next for the Raptors is an intrasquad game this Saturday before they travel to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers Oct. 6 in their first preseason game.