Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Story No One's Talking About: Hedo's Revenge

Tonight, the NBA Finals finally begin. Seems like the conference finals were weeks ago. With the emergence of Dwight Howard, Kobe going after his 4th ring and first without some big fella named Shaq, Jameer Nelson's will-he-or-won't-he return story, the enigma that is Lamar Odom, the match-up between Rashard Lewis and Pau Gasol, and the absence of LeBron James (not to mention handshakegate) getting so much attention, there's a story that's quietly flying under the radar. A story of revenge. A story of redemption. The story of Hedo Turkoglu.

We all remember the famed 2002 Western Conference finals that pitted the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings against one another yet again in the playoffs. It was Mike Bibby's coming out party, as the then-young point guard carried the Kings to a game 7 against the two-time defending champion Lakers, where in that deciding game, literally no one on Sacramento showed up save for Bibby. Had he gotten just a little bit of help from Chris Webber or Peja Stojakovic down the stretch, perhaps the Kings could have been remembered as champions, not chokers.

Of course, the lasting image of that series is Robert Horry's game-winning three in game 4 after Vlade Divac tapped a rebound right to him.

Take a long, hard look at that photo and tell me what you see. Yes, under the basket is a young Hedo Turkoglu — then in his second season in the NBA at age 23 — looking on helplessly while guarding Rick Fox, as Chris Webber couldn't quite get to Horry. That shot shattered all of Sacramento's dreams, and Turkoglu was among the bunch left stunned:

"It's the luckiest thing I've ever seen in my life. Vlade hit the ball and it went straight into his hands and he was wide-open. The whole game, he was going for offensive boards, but at that moment he was waiting right there. You could never see this type of game in your life."
-- Hedo Turkoglu, on Robert Horry's Game 4 game-winner

Until this season, that's the closest Turkoglu, now 30, had ever gotten to the Finals. While certainly not the team's best player with the likes of Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Vlade Divac and company on the squad, Turkoglu was an integral part of the rotation, evident by his presence on the floor in the waning moments of game 4.

During the regular season, Hedo averaged 24.6 minutes, 10.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2 assists, nearly a steal and a half a block a game, while shooting 42.2 percent from the field, 36.8 from three and 72.6 from the line. Turkoglu struggled in the playoffs, but nonetheless, he was a regular in Rick Adelman's rotation.

And in those Western Conference Finals, Turkoglu averaged 34 minutes a game and 10.7 points, playing some truly horrendous games and some really good games. Take for instance game 1, where Hedo went 0-for-8 from the field, putting up a goose egg in points, followed by a 4-for-8 for just 8 points in game 2. Then he had two excellent games in games 3 and 4, scoring 14 (6-13 from the field) and 18 points (8-15).

In essence, it was a learning experience for Turkoglu, one that ended in a painful lesson. While the media has seemingly forgotten about it, I'm sure Hedo hasn't.

Back in 2002, he had to watch as Kobe and Derek Fisher celebrated with Shaq and Horry and all the rest of the Lakers after a tough 7-game battle. Don't think that won't be extra motivation for the quiet Turkish assassin who has been a driving force in Orlando's run to the Finals. All he'll have to do is peer across the court at Kobe or Derek Fisher to remember the agony of defeat at the hands of the Lakers. Watch out for Hedo. He has more reason than anyone to want to bury the Lakers.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. Yessir, The Michael Jordan of Turkey. Glad to see others are paying attention to The Hedo Factor. I wrote something about him a few days ago.

    You being a big Eagles fan, can you tell me what the hell Westbrook was thinking, by JUST having ankle surgery, instead of not doing so four months ago??

  2. Well, as far as I can tell, he didn't know he was injured. It was aggravated in OTAs … also, maybe he just wanted to skip camp. No idea.

  3. Hedo has shown in this series that he deserves redemption, but redemption is elusive and the fates can be unjust.