Hidayet Turkoglu: "Stan gave me a chance to succeed"
You won the Most Improved Player award last season. However, is this the best year in your career so far?
Hidayet Turkoglu: You would have to say that. I feel very comfortable in Orlando, I am surrounded with great players and coaches. So, it all came together here for me. You can’t ask for more as an NBA player.
You came in the league as an already established international basketball superstar. Why didn’t your career progress in the same way during your first three seasons with Sacramento?
HT: I was very young and didn’t quite know what was expected of me in the NBA. I came to the team that had a great player in my position in Peja Stojakovic, and I was always coming to the games off the bench. When you don’t get minutes on the floor to show what you can do, any player’s career has to suffer.
Peja and you are still very close, no?
HT: Yes, I consider him one of my closest friends. We will see each other in Greece this summer, prior to the European Championships in Poland. Our kids are of similar age, and, when we meet, we speak Serbian. Both of my parents were born in Serbia and came to Istanbul, Turkey, when they were teenagers.
Any resemblance of two overtime games you played so far against the Lakers in this year’s NBA Finals to that legendary Western Conference Finals series in 2002?
HT: There’s no comparison. Those were not the NBA Finals. We didn’t play for the ring. The Kings were never in the NBA Finals, and this is a much bigger stage than that was.
HT: It’s very hard for me to compare. The roles that I played for these two coaches are completely different. Stan gave me a chance to succeed in Orlando. He provided me with an opportunity to show what I can do. I am very grateful to him for that chance.
You’ve been playing so many different roles in the Finals. Point forward, shooting forward, taking on the challenge of guarding Kobe... And you’ve been remarkably successful in all those. What role are you most comfortable in?
HT: I just do whatever Coach tells me to do. I go out there and compete. What I play, who I guard, it’s less important if that’s something that will make us as a team successful.
Coach Van Gundy is taking a pounding from the media for the decisions that lead to two overtime losses in these Finals. What do you think about that?
HT: That’s something that happens to everybody at such a great stage as the NBA Finals. However, we wouldn’t be where we are right now if Stan didn’t guide us so well during the season. Most of what happened on the floor has to do with players’ execution. We just didn’t do many things right, and that’s why we are where we are right now in these Finals.
How big is a disappointment when you play so good and so consistent throughout the series to lose two games in overtime and be on the brink of losing the series?
HT: It is very disappointing. We had some great chances to win in those two games. We have made many mistakes in this series…
HT: Just poor decision making and poor execution. We have to cut back on our turnovers. Seventeen turnovers in a game won’t win you a ring. But, we can’t look back in the past. We have to focus on the task ahead. We are ready for Game 5, and we know what we have to do to win. We still believe we can turn this around.
Nebojsa Petrovacki is an editor of Sportska Centrala, sports news agency from Serbia