The Toronto Raptors will get a significant boost Wednesday night as Hedo Turkoglu is expected to make his much anticipated debut, against the Boston Celtics in Hartford, CT.
Turkoglu, Toronto’s star acquisition over the off-season has been hampered by fatigue and quadriceps tendonitis.
He hasn’t played through the first four pre-season games, but told reporters after Monday’s practice he is ready to contribute.
“Right now, I’m feeling much better, both physically and mentally,” he said.
“I don’t know how long I’ll play, but I’ll try to do my best to help the team. I want to try and work my way up to the best shape I can before the regular season starts.”
Toronto began the pre-season with back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 6 and 7. They were without Turkoglu and star forward Chris Bosh and lost by single digits both nights.
Bosh returned to the lineup on Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and now the Raptors have won two straight heading into Wednesday’s tilt against the 2008 NBA champions.
As Turkoglu explained, the Raptors may still have some challenges ahead of them with four games left before the regular season starts.
“There are 14 new guys that I haven’t played with before,” he said. “So far, we’re in a learning process as a team. We have a lot of talented guys that can do a lot of good things, but we have to be a group.”
The 30-year-old forward was an integral part of the Orlando Magic, who made it to the NBA finals last season. Through 77 games, he averaged 16.8 points.
Raptors coach Jay Triano told the National Post he will look to play Turkoglu with the Raptors starters.
“We only have four more pre-season games and I need to put him on the floor with guys he’s going to play with for most of the time,” he said.
“I don’t know how many minutes he’ll be able to go, but I’m planning on starting him with Jose [Calderon], Chris [Bosh], Andrea [Bargnani], and probably DeMar [DeRozan].”
With five games remaining before the regular season, Boston has a 2-1 record.
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett has played in all three games after going through off-season knee surgery. He has gotten consistently better and scored 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field on Sunday.
Coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe he might rest his starters either Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets or Wednesday against the Raptors.
“We’re not sure yet,” Rivers said. “We’ll see how guys feel. We worked pretty hard, so we’ll wait until [Monday] or maybe [Tuesday]. Whoever is sore won’t play.”
Toronto and Boston will face off again on Oct. 18 at the Air Canada Centre.
Both teams will play the Cleveland Cavaliers in their regular season openers, Celtics on Oct. 27, Toronto a day later.
Guard Antoine Wright did not travel with Toronto on Tuesday as he continues to recover from a sore right knee.
Raptors guard Sonny Weems jammed his big toe in Sunday’s 100-93 win over the Washington Wizards and did not practice Tuesday.