In a top secret location somewhere on the globe, Chris Bosh is having a meeting of the minds with the other max free agents. Really, though, it is just a meeting of the moneyed. Together they are devising a sinister plot to take over one NBA franchise in order to rule them all. If this seems like tampering, something that David Stern apparently takes seriously, it is because it is. Yet, do not expect any fine to be levied against any of the participants of this new incarnation of the Super Friends. While Bosh is away and the Toronto Raptors begin mulling their Bosh-less future the last thing they need is more turmoil especially with so many uncertainties surrounding the franchise. Apparently, Hedo Turkoglu did not get the message.
Turkoglu recently announced, in a Turkish television interview, that he no longer wants to remain in the city of Toronto and play for the Raptors. The Raptors’ management can be nothing but thrilled that their biggest free agent acquisition from last summer now wants nothing to do with the organization. You more than likely will not hear a peep out of Bryan Colangelo or the organization as whole as they have decided to deal with the situation internally. It is understandable why they would want to keep quiet on the matter because it was their idea to award him with a $53 million contract and now they are looking to take a severe hit because of it. However, this decision by Turkoglu should not come as any particular surprise. He has had conflicts with the organization for much of the season.
On 28 March this year, he was benched, as healthy scratch, and fined for missing the previous game with a stomach bug but then being reportedly seen out that night at a Toronto club. It was his first benching in four years. The nightclub incident awarded him the nickname “Party Machine.” This is probably the most widely reported grievance between the two camps but Turkoglu’s play on the court this season is an indicator that he has had absolutely no interest in playing for the Raptors. Across the board, except in three-point shooting percentage, his numbers are down from last season’s when he was with the Orlando Magic. (If you look at his bio on NBA.com his profile picture is of him in a Magic jersey. Clearly the NBA has no respect for the Raptors organization either otherwise they would have changed this early on in the season. Getty Images could surely provide them with a picture or two could they not?) To refer to Turkoglu’s play as uninspired this season would be an overstatement. Sure, he had flashes of why the team and Colangelo thought he was worth the contract they gave him but nothing was ever consistent.
The Raptors have a crisis on their hands this summer. There is little question that Bosh will leave to go play somewhere else, especially since he was invited to LeBron Con. Now they face the prospect of suspending Turkoglu, trying to move him and his approximate remaining $42.2 million contract in a trade, or buying him out. None of these options is a favorable one as the Raptors will come up on what will be considered the losing side. Turkoglu will not be in a Raptors jersey next year; that much is certain. If the Raptors decide to take the hit financially and buyout Turkoglu’s contract it will serve as yet another embarrassment, and will be the biggest, on a disastrous season where the team fell apart during a playoff push. A buyout may also set a precedent across the league allowing disgruntled players to demand to leave their teams. With the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement talks slowly getting underway, this is the last thing that the league and David Stern want to see happen.
Turkoglu’s desire to bounce on Toronto is yet another damning condemnation of what Colangelo has tried to establish. Losing his two big name players this summer will leave Colangelo with a shell of his former team. This could end up being a good thing for the franchise, however, as it gives the organization a chance to rebuild using a different model. Perhaps this time they will choose to build a team without such a strong European style influence. The European model has been shown time and again to not work in the NBA. They at least need to do something to do something to please the fans who are deservedly distraught. Toronto may be in the toughest situation of any team in the league right now. Turkoglu is just another reminder of the team’s inadequacies and failures. They have difficult choices ahead and no matter what they choose to do questions will abound about the integrity and legitimacy of the franchise and its future.