Last summer, there was deal was in place to bring Hedu Turkoglu and his stretch four game to the Portland Trail Blazers — he was to be team’s next step in evolving into a Western Conference Power. You all saw what he did in the playoffs, right? He killed the Lakers. So of course the people of Portland were enamored with him.
Then Turkoglu left them at the alter, choosing instead hockey and Chris Bosh in Toronto.
Portland fans don’t forget, and they let him know it when the Raptors came to the Rose Garden Sunday. They booed him in player introductions. They booed him every time he touched the ball. They booed him off the court. If they could have, they would have booed him in his hotel room.
But why? After watching him Sunday, did anyone in Portland think, “That’s the guy that puts us over the top?” Ben Golliver at Blazers Edge watched him and came away happy the Blazers missed out.
Tonight, Turkoglu went through the motions like so many slightly above average players on slightly below average teams. His shot was falling (4 of 5 from deep), he was careless with the basketball (4 turnovers) and he did not impact the game on the boards or on the defensive end. Don’t look now but it could be a really, really, really long 5 years.
That could be you, Portland. You could have the guy with the future-killing five-year deal for a guy who is just kind of above average most nights. A guy taking the ball out of Brandon Roy’s hands. A guy who brings some skills but not the intensity most of the time. A guy who is an average defender
Don’t boo him, give thanks he had a change of heart. Leave his wife out of it and just count your blessings. You’re better off this way.
League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant
Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.
However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.
“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”
“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”
One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.
“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”
Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.
But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.