He-do and the Glass Playoff Shoes

I was hoping my debut on the Dino Nation Blog would be a little more epic than what follows. Unfortunately, my laptop died on me and I’ve been limited to Blackberry Internet browsing and word processing for the past few weeks. Tecno-failure coupled with the fact that I’m working two jobs outside of the media has really hindered my ability to write anything of substance. Words of caution to you teen-aged aspiring journalists out there: it’s a jungle after graduation. Be ready to get your Tarzan/Jane on. Anyways, I won’t usually blurb like this (I hope) before each post, nor am I normally apologetic, but I felt it was important to let my main man JB, and the Dino Nation know the deal. Here we go...

One of the few things I’ve been able to do from my Blackberry is read people’s Tweets. I normally hit up RealGM to measure the general opinion of Raptors fans but I’ve been unable to do so. One theme I’ve noticed play out on Twitter is that many, if not most, feel that Hedo Turkoglu has been the biggest disappointment of this exciting Raptors season.

Now, I understand that most of the anti-Hedo sentiment is directly related to his $50 million plus contract, but I think it also has much to do with unrealistic expectations heading into the season. I’m not talking about the expectations Bryan Colangelo had when he gave Hedo that contract. I don’t, for a second, believe that he expected Hedo to perform as he did in the Magic’s championship run year-in and year-out. Just to jog your memory, if you scratch the opening round against Philly from the record, Hedo posted per-game numbers of 17 points, 5.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 threes. In that 18-game stretch following the first round, he had six games where he scored 20 or more points, back-to-back 12 and 14 assist games, eight games with two or more threes, and seven games with 6 or more rebounds.

In the 07/08 and 08/09 seasons, he put up similar numbers but in neither was he considered to be the Magic’s unquestioned leader in the clutch. Yes, they liked to have him take the final shot, but against the Lakers, analysts and fans throughout the league were taking notice of Hedo’s fourth-quarter dominance.

Now you’re asking, what’s wrong with you, Anas? You’re just repeating everything that we knew when we signed Hedo. Yes, that’s right. All I’ve done is thrown numbers out at you, made you focus on the statistical feasts you were fed in heaps in the off-season. Nine out of ten articles written in the days leading up to, and the days that followed the Turk signing made mention of these very same numbers and playoff heroics. It’s easy to forget that Hedo has posted career numbers of 12.3 points, 2.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 threes. Eerily similar to the numbers he has posted here in Toronto post-fat contract (12.3 points, 4.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 threes). I’m a Fantasy sports junkie myself, but even I can say it’s not all about stats.

I wrote a piece before the Hedo signing saying that the Raptors should focus on keeping Marion. In hindsight, I’m happy that this didn’t happen. Although Hedo was given a bloated contract, his passing ability from the three-spot has helped Chris Bosh increase a scoring average that, for the four years preceding Turk’s arrival, had appeared to have maxed out at 22. Even if Hedo isn’t hitting those game-winning shots, other teams are still expecting him to do so. Teams still zone in on him despite his underwhelming season. He commands a double-team that Marion never would have. Yes, we lost Marion’s rebounding but the Raptors have more than made up for that with Amir Johnson.

Raptors fans, this whole blog could have been summed up in this final graph: Calm down! You’re witnessing one of the most exciting Raptors seasons in the team’s history. Be thankful that you have a guy who is letting you down (right now) as opposed to a team filled with guys who have never played well-enough to warrant any lofty expectations. The year is young. Hedo’s true test will come when the games matter the most: the playoffs. He’s put in work in the post-season like no other current Raptor. He’s a guy that wakes up when everyone starts to sleep on his team. Last year, the Cavs were supposed to take the East. They didn’t. This year the Raptors are firmly wedged underneath ESPN’s snooze button even though they are within biting distance of home-court advantage. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that won’t play a factor in making Hedo rise to the occasion. When those very same analysts who celebrated Hedo for his spectacular post-season play are sleeping on his squad when picking their playoff Cinderellas, don’t be surprised if Hedo is the bell of the BALL.

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