Hedo Turns into Hedon't in a Flash

Tom HammerContributor IJune 22, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  Hedo Turkoglu #15 of the Orlando Magic talks with referee Dan Crawford #43 during Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. The Lakers won 99-86. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I love the NBA playoffs for many different reasons but most prevalent to my fascination is to watch previously obscure and under-rated players make names and sometimes careers for themselves throughout the course of the postseason. 

It's true in all sports, in that a single player can resurrect, ignite and/or ruin their career with one single game or one single moment during the post season. 

That's what makes sports so great is that the more ultimate the stage, the more pressure exists and its only when players are put under this extreme pressure, that all grey matter falls to the side and only the true ballers stand out and shine.  There were many such examples in these NBA playoffs. 

Ben Gordon for the Bulls guaranteeing himself a leading scorer salary next season, even though I personally think he is selfish and a team cancer. 

Derrick Rose demonstrating that his talents definitely translate well to the NBA and those flashes we saw during his run to the finals in college hoops were not an aberration but rather a preview to what may be one of the more successful point guard careers in the history of the league. 

Nene took center stage as an extremely athletic big man who creates match up nightmares and a presence on the defensive end that is coveted by all league executives.

"Big Baby" Glen Davis showed out as a key piece to the Boston Celtics future, although, with me personally being a Celtics fan I'd hate to see them over pay. But I think head and shoulders above these notable playoff performers, was the man from Turkey playing for the runner-up Magic, Hedo Turkoglu.

Coming into this season, I believed and bought into all the stereo-types that engulfed Turkaglu's career.  He had "euro" game meaning he is soft but skilled, and he would never be that guy who you want in your corner when the chips are down. 

I always saw him as a shooter with a great touch for a big man but on the other end, could  not effectively guard anyone smaller or bigger. 

I watched almost all of the Magic's games in the playoffs, and slowly but surely my perception changed.  What I saw in the Celtics series was a huge wing, with great vision and above average ball handling skills even if you categorize him as a two or three. 

He was gutsy and he was a leader.  The ball always ended up in his hands when the shot clock was down and at the end of the game.  You could tell, Stan Van Gundy had supreme confidence in this guy. 

If there was one flaw it was he wasn't selfish enough in my opinion with when to take over the game.  The Celtics had no answers for him. 

And if I make one observation that proves my point from that series is that Paul Pierce is clearly the Celtics best wing defender and he guarded Turkoglu all series even while Rashard Lewis absolutely killed whoever was guarding him.  The Celtics never made the change. 

They couldn't because Doc Rivers knew that Turkoglu was the key, he was the engine to the Magic's offense.  On defense, Turkoglu was deceptively quick enough to guard wings and when the Magic went small he did an adequate job of guarding the post.

In today's game, with the number of back to the basket players dwindling, you can afford to have a guy like Turkoglu guard the other teams power forward or center. 

In the finals, my growing admiration took a giant leap as Turkoglu took center stage and in my eyes, showed he was the second best player on the floor in a lot of circumstances with Kobe obviously being the best.  He was taking people off the dribble and scoring around the hoop or kicking to wide open shooters. 

He was going to the boards on both ends.  He was bringing the ball up the court and coming off screens and stroking.  This guy looked like he belonged in the finals and was there to put his imprint, loud and bold, on the map of NBA superstars. 

He was a multi- dimensional beast.  In the back of my head, I was constantly thinking that the Magic were set for the future with Turkoglu being the perfect compliment to Howard for the next several years. 

The Magic have the ideal system to accentuate all of Turkaglu's talents and next year he certainly would be an all-star as there is no way coaches and fans could over look him after these finals.  Hedo Turkoglu had arrived and he was going to be a star.

Then with one idiotic statement by his obviously greedy and desperate agent, all of that went away and HeDO quickly went back to HeDON'T, as he made the decision to not pursue re-upping with the team that had just got him to the finals but rather he would "aggressively" pursue free agency.

I understand that in business as well as sports, you have to strike when the irons hot and I can see where Turkaglu and his agent felt that his playoff performance was a good spring board to a huge contract from the free agent market.  I'm not dumb.  I do see that logic. 

However, what ever happened to competitive spirit, whatever happened to dedication to winning, and what ever happened to respecting an organization who got you to where you are? 

What a slap in the face if you are a Magic fan, player or executive, that after you just poured your heart and soul out into a very successful season that you are rewarded with complete selfishness and greed from one of your star players. 

Mark my words, history will show that Hedo Turkoglu peaked in this 2009 playoffs, if he leaves the Magic. 

No other team and no other system is going to put him in the situation to succeed no matter where he decides to go.  I could see the New York Knicks being a great fit but we all know they are saving up for the huge LeBron James lottery. 

No, Hedo will go to a non-contender who will expect him to be a 20-point stat sheet stuffer and he'll drift back into obscurity. 

And I truly will hate it because I saw flashes of a completely new type of weapon in the NBA and the Magic had a chance to be a great team for a long time to come but in the end, they fell victim to circumstances that stain all of professional sports.  Money means more then winning. 

End of story.