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Hedo’s unhappiness presents more trouble in Toronto

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Hedo Turkoglu signed a five-year, $53 million contract with the Raptors in July 2009

(Damn it! I’ve had this post in queue for weeks. Now that Hedo has come out and declared his unhappiness, it seems reactionary, rather than with brilliant foresight.)

Bryan Colangelo must be kicking himself now about his decision to sign Hedo Turkoglu.

It’s not Hedo’s fault that he was grossly overvalued on the free agent market. He’s not to blame for the fact that the Trailblazers and the Raptors wanted to pay him ridiculous sums of money: $52.8 million over five years to be exact.

What is Hedo’s fault is just how poorly he played in his first season in Toronto.

Some of it is a matter of skill, which makes it painfully apparent that Turkoglu isn’t the elite player many apparently felt he was. A solid and serviceable player, sure, but one with an inflated value due to an Orlando system that put the ball in his hands an inordinate amount of time.

Some of it is undoubtedly psychological. The pressures of living up to such a big contract coupled with the introduction to a new city can be substantial.

But a lot of it was purely motivational. He showed up to camp overweight and out of shape, and never seemed eager to do much of anything. Things got particularly uneasy as the Raptors suffered through a dramatic second half collapse, leaving the team outside of the playoff picture.

Whatever the case, one thing is for certain. The Raptor organization now finds itself in a difficult predicament. It could be something of a perfect storm in Toronto this summer: Chris Bosh will exit, the Raptors will have minimal cap space with which to work, and with the nearly unmovable contracts of Turkoglu and Jose Calderon, the Raptors seam poised for yet another season of disappointment.

Turkoglu has taken notice.

Said the Turk, “I am sad. You play in NBA finals, score most on your team, carry your team, sign a good contract. So expectations were high. When you are not that successful, it affects you a lot naturally.

I signed a good contract and all eyes were on me. There were false news coming out about me. Some of it had little truth in them. I am so unhappy. I am totally unhappy at Toronto Raptors. Especially about the things happened near the end of the season. Let’s finish here for now, if we meet again, I will explain detail what I had to live through.”

It feels a bit disingenuous to me that Hedo would be complaining about a situation he played such a big part in creating. But it will be interesting to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his salary to do something about it. If he truly is this unhappy, he could always terminate his contract. The Raptors would undoubtedly oblige. However, he would certainly not be able to replicate such a contract on the open market with anything near as lucrative.

At the end of the day, it appears to be an unfortunate situation for all parties involved. The Raptors will continue to be saddled with Turk’s contract and will likely remain largely uncompetitive into the foreseeable future. Turk, unwilling to relinquish such a big payday, will be stuck in a situation he clearly does not like. Of course, $52.8 million would make me feel better.

For Miami fans hell-bent on the notion that the Heat has shot itself in the foot by pursuing maximum cap space rather than value pieces to be included in a potential sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh, this could be your salvation. The Heat’s willingness to take on Hedo’s contract could deal Miami right back into the sign-and-trade game. Ridding itself of such a large, unwanted contract would be a strong first step for a Raptor team now forced into a rebuilding process, perhaps even more so than acquiring the oft injured Andrew Bynum.

Turkoglu is, after all, a solid role player. Even Dwyane Wade, if you recall, made a mild push for the 6’10” forward before the season started. But I, even with all my inherent pessimism, am still not one of these doomsday fanatics. I believe Chris can be acquired devoid of Hedo, despite the lack of sign-and-trade pieces on the current roster. I also believe, if it came right down to it, the Heat could put together an attractive if not ideal sign-and-trade package — which would include a selection of draft picks and an up to $17 million trade exception.

One thing seems certain. The first round draft pick acquired from the Raptors in the Jermaine O’Neal trade appears more than ever like it will be an unprotected 2015 lottery pick. But a lot can happen in five years.

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