Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hedo Turkoglu's Final EuroBasket 2011 Evaluation

Unfortunately for Orlando Magic small forward Hedo Turkoglu, Turkey Dance's nation has been eliminated from the European international basketball competition. Not only that, but because they didn't reach the knockout stage of EuroBasket, Turkey won't be playing in London's 2012 Summer Olympics. The deadly Group E also dashed Germany's Olympic hopes.

Turkey's 2010 FIBA World Championship silver medal did indeed prove to be an anomaly. The Turks went back to their usual inconsistent basketball ways in international play outside of their homeland. Ender ArslanKerem TunceriErsan Ilyasova, Hedo, and others all played way worse than last year. Only Omer AsikEnes Kanter, and Emir Preldzic were true bright spots in an otherwise uninspiring team campaign. You can't expect to qualify out of Group E if you can't win a game.

As you can see from my previous analysis, Hedo and his nation showed high vulnerability in a tough Group A. So Turkey had a chance to start out fresh against undefeated France. It ended up being their most winnable game of Group E. Hedo's trend of decent 2-point shooting and atrocious 3-point shooting continued. 29 minutes on 4-of-12 shooting just won't get it done though when you're supposed to be leading your team. 4-of-7 from two is fine, but 0-for-5 from downtown is crippling.

Here's the entire game. France had a comfy lead at halftime, extended it in the 3rd period, and then Turkey began an improbable (and excruciatingly ugly) late game comeback. Turkey had a chance to even send the match to overtime. The discipline and end of game coaching is just severely lacking. What a disgusting mess. An inexperienced Preldzic should not be the inbounder.

There's a reason why you have Hedo ALWAYS inbounding the ball. Whether it's with the Magic or Turkey. He's 6'10" and you can always run a quick give-and-go play where Hedo can get the ball back immediately to shoot or create. He's done it a million times. Coach Ene really dropped the ball on this one. Also, the set play didn't look like it was going anywhere. Solid defense from France who flexed their championship contender muscles.

Against Germany, Hedo's 3-point woes continued. Turkoglu was making his baseline 2-point jumpers (the fadeaway kind) as well as showing patience and a bit of speed on his drives to the hole. 4-of-15 shooting (0-for-4 from downtown) probably even had Stan Van Gundy facepalming. Played a team-high 32 minutes and posted 9 points, 3 boards, and 3 assists. The match was a tight affair and even a slightly improved game from Turkoglu, in comparison to the France game, would have been enough to steal a crucial victory.

Hedo actually played point forward down the stretch for a change and still couldn't get it done. Over the years, we've become accustomed to Mr. 4th Quarter constantly creating in clutch moments. Now as a 32-year-old, age, fatigue, and just plain bad shooting have caught up to the national hero. Turkey Dance at least had some clutch airballs that resulted in Omer Asik rebounds and putbacks. Kidding aside, Hedo wasn't the worst Turkish player on the court. Far from it. Aside from Asik and Kanter, there just wasn't much life on this roster. Another very winnable game that slipped through Coach Ene's fingers.

Here's the full match. On a positive note, Hedo did show some clutch post-up defense on Dirk Nowitzki when it was needed. Unfortunately, Philipp Schwethelm decided to save his best game in Lithuania for that night. Chris Kaman and the rest of the Germans managed to eek out the victory in the same style Turkey preferred to win with last year. Caveman would not be stopped.

The other bad pattern you'll notice is Turkey's putrid free throw percentages that were a vital reason why they lost the remaining 2 of 3 games. Any roster should be taken out back and shot for going 10-for-22 at the stripe. 45.5 percent is ludicrous. It was under 40% too for much of the game until the very end.

Finally, we get to today. Sunday showed that even if Turkey did beat Serbia, they would need some help in the Germany-Lithuania game. Serbia's livelihood was also on the line. It wouldn't matter. In another defensive battle, Turkey again chokes in the clutch and lose to Serbia 68-67. Arslan actually showed a pulse in the closing minutes, but it would be wasted as Ersan Ilyasova just couldn't overcome his shooting struggles. Ilyasova missed a fair turnaround jump shot attempt in the final seconds that would have won the game.

Hedo was on the court a game-high 34 minutes but again disappointed with just 8 points and 2 assists. Another unreliable shooting outing, 3-of-10 (0-for-2 from downtown). Witness the final 2 minutes, and again you'll see Turkey sort of goes away from their better players (Kanter, Onan). Bad coaching once again a main culprit but also the roster continued to show its low basketball IQ.

On paper though, 16-of-29 Turkish free throws (55%) compared to Serbia's 81.3% is the glaring comparison you have to make. No one could step up for longer than a few possessions. If you can't wake up in a do-or-die situation, you don't deserve to progress to the next stage. Serbia wanted it more and they were rewarded with a trip to the quarterfinals with Turkey being sent home. Simple as that.

Turkoglu played all 8 of Turkey's games and his EuroBasket 2011 totals look rather ridiculous, in a horrible way. It's a memorable tournament all right, and hopefully Otis Smith isn't a drinker. A true abomination and I can understand if Magic fans cry when they look at the statistics. 27 minutes per game, 10.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, on 38.8% field goal shooting. 54.2% from 2-point range (Top 15 in the competition), and 15.6% (5-of-32) on 3s. Even his free throws mirrored the team's woes as 69.2% from the stripe is very unrecognizable from the Hedo we all know. Keep in mind, just last year Hedo posted 12.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 3.4 apg in Turkey. It is interesting though that in 2009's EuroBasket, Turkoglu actually posted a relatively weak 9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 2.6 apg. So make whatever assumptions you want.

Defensively, it was the usual from Hedo. Didn't get embarrassed but never truly exerted himself. Offensively is where he dropped. Few drives to the rack and a very weak paint presence. Turkoglu on numerous occasions would have a noticeable height advantage over his opponent but would rarely post-up, settling for pull-ups. Hedo also wasn't vocal or nearly asserted himself as one of the team's leaders. The hunger (not the pizza kind) and passion are dwindling.

I believe it's time Hidayet steps down from a national team he's carried for a decade. He's lost that assassin characteristic that made him such a stud. Plus, it makes sense if he wants to extend his declining NBA career. New blood has already come in to Coach Ene's squad and it'll be a bit of a rocky transition period, but they have 2 years until EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia to clean their slate. Hand the torch over to Emir Preldzic and the other youngsters (naturalized or not) coming up the ranks.

It's tough to say really whether I want Hedo to play club ball during the Lockout. If he sits out, he may pack on the weight. If he does play (possibly in Ankara, Turkey with Mehmet Okur), he could be risking his knees and we may see Turkoglu wear himself out if and when the NBA season begins. Hedo's got some major decisions to make. still keeps some of the game replays (and there are a bunch of YouTube clips and highlights), so Orlando Magic fans can still see for themselves how Hedo performed. The Magic may not have a player in EuroBasket anymore, but it's still a very fun tournament to watch as we approach the knockout stage.

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