The first time I saw Hedo Turkoglu play was in the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals, when the Sacramento Kings played the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings were just a bump in the road that season, as the Lakers only lost one game to win their second straight title of the decade. I remember seeing this 6’8-6’9 dude (he’s grown to 6’10 since then) doin’ work in Game Four, and wondering who is this dude, and where did he come from. He was hitting shots, getting to the rim, dunking on folks, and was one of the few Kings who didn’t seem terrified by the Lake Show in that entire series. Little did I know, eight years later, this same cat would be a huge reason why the Orlando Magic has advanced to the NBA Finals.
Chris Webber calls him “The Michael Jordan of Turkey,” which in itself is pure hilarity, because anything, or anyone, being compared to Jordan in any field will get anyone’s attention, but after you look past his words, you see how nice and complete Hedo’s game is, how far he’s come along, and why he’s the most important player on this Orlando team. We all know about Superman, Skip, and Rashard Lewis, and his knack for making big shots. We also know about Jameer Nelson (it’s a damn shame he won’t be able to compete in The Finals; he’s been the truth since day one), but Turk is the key. If he has a bad shooting game, he can make it up with his rebounding, and his ability to handle and pass the ball, and get his teammates easy shots. He also has an underrated amount of clutch, which has been on display not only in the postseason (see Philadelphia and Boston series), but in the regular season as well. Stan the Man trusts Turkoglu to make the right play at the end of the game, which means he’s the main one with the ball in his hands in crunch-time. Simply put, Turkoglu is a nightmare matchup for anyone, especially the Lakers. I can see them putting Odom on Lewis, which will leave Pau Gasol trying to guard Hedo. If that’s the case, I can see Gasol getting in foul trouble right away, because he’ll have hell trying to guard Turk on the perimeter.
I’ve seen Turkoglu help the Magic win games in a variety of ways, and I think he’ll have to continue to do so, if the Magic have any chance of beating The Lake Show. Howard will destroy whoever tries to stick him (as long as he stays out of foul trouble), but even if he goes ballistic, it is going to take more than that to win the championship. I think Skip/Anthony Johnson will hold their own against the Lakers point guards, but the Magic have to dominate one of these frontcourt matchups. It’s up to either Rashard or Hedo to obliterate whoever tries to guard them. From what I’ve seen out of him in the past couple of seasons, I’m putting my faith in The Michael Jordan of Turkey.