Hedo Turkoglu hasn't played a single game for the Orlando Magic this season. He hasn't even participated in training camp or a preseason game. Now the time to part is finally drawing nearer, and the reason is quite mundane: money.
And all the while, Orlando fumbled the ball and screwed up any chance of getting something back for the millions of dollars it has to send the 34-year-old's way. What could the team have done differently? What options did they have?
A Quick Summary of the Situation
Ever since the NBA suspended Turkoglu for 20 games after testing positive for methenolone, he hasn't returned. Nonetheless his $12 million contract—half of it guaranteed—is still valid and counting towards the salary cap.
However, if Orlando can deal him to another team before the trade deadline or waives him until January 7, it will only have to pay the guaranteed $6 million.
Why January 7?
If a team waives a player by that date, he will be able to clear the waivers before January 10, the deadline after which he is owed the full amount of his contract.
It is very likely that the Orlando Magic will not let this date pass, hoping to deal the Turk by the February 20 deadline. After all, the main reason for him to still be on their roster is that they were hoping to deal him for someone else.
It hasn't happened so far, and it likely won't happen now.
What Went Wrong?
The Magic made it clear that Turkoglu didn't fit into their future plans. They wanted to keep him as an asset for a possible deal or buy him out of his contract for less than the guaranteed amount.
Rob Hennigan, the Magic general manager, told the Orlando Sentinel:
We’ve made an organizational decision to move in a different direction. During the pendency of our buyout negotiations, we’ve mutually agreed to have Hedo remain with his family while we work toward an agreement.
The small forward, on the other hand, had no reason to agree to such a buyout.
Imagine earning, at the very least, $6 million for doing nothing. Sounds like paradise for a player whose production has declined significantly and who lately missed a lot of games with injuries. Additionally, he realizes his age begins to enter the equation.
Would you be keen on taking less money?
So the only reason for the Magic to have him around is the hope that some other team would take him and trade some player who fits into their plans. The chances for that happening were always slim. With January 7 looming over the team's head, they have now dropped to about zero.
Then Why Not Use Him?
The whole situation looks like a waste of money.
If your team has a veteran who helped reach the NBA Finals as a starting small forward, why not make use of his experience in a team filled with young talent?
If the Magic didn't want him to start in order to give their young players more exposure, at least have him participate in practice and give him some sixth-man duty.
Young, talented players like Victor Oladipo, Andrew Nicholson, Tobias Harris or Maurice Harkless are like sponges and will absorb all sorts of advice. Why miss out on that opportunity to improve such a young, inexperienced team?
It would also have helped his value on the trade market.
If a team has to choose between acquiring a player who is active and playing or someone who hasn't even practiced in the past months, guess which player will be of more value.
It seems that right from the start Orlando didn't believe that it could actually trade Turkoglu. And he wasn't part of the future for a team that seems to have tanked this season to get a lottery pick in a 2014 NBA draft with lots of talent.
So by choosing to not include him, yet being unable to get rid of him, the Orlando Magic managed to turn Turkoglu into “Turk-o-glue”—an asset on paper, a dead stock in reality.
It is still incomprehensible how any team could opt to pay someone $6 million to not do anything, considering how much young players could have profited from him.
You may want to call Rob Hennigan and apply for a job. Tell him you will do anything.
As long as you don't actually have to do it.
For more on the NBA, follow @KurtJonke.