Black Clouds

I’m not sure what the extended forecast is for the next few days, but some of the black clouds that have descended need to show their silver linings.

Last season we saw the same sort of clouds forming over Jermaine O’Neal. Jay Triano has said that he knew the season was going be very difficult when he saw JO lobbying to change schemes to better suit him, three games into a three win season. I remember O’Neal talking at length about how he studied the tapes all night to see where he can get his game off more. When you witness hints of self-interest in veteran players that have their hearts in past glories, you can sense the storms brewing. This season we’re seeing something similar happening with Hedo Turkoglu. He wants to be in Orlando. He won in Orlando. He was close to being an All Star in Orlando, and when things mattered the most, he was the first option. Who wouldn’t want that? But he is not in Orlando, and he seems to have consoled himself by looking to increase his his personal status in this league, when he should be happy to make the team better and moving forward.

Was there something in Colangelo’s sales job aside from the 53 million that Raptors fans obsess over a little too much? Did he whisper in Turkoglu’s ear something about how he took an aging free agent by the name of Steve Nash, and allowed Stevie to take his game to a level worthy of two MVPs? Did he suggest that Hedo should be able to really showcase his talents to the point where the All Star game selection would surely come? Or did he explain how as a veteran presence with great success in his past, he would be counted on to make other guys around him that much better than they might be already? Because that is where the emphasis needed to be to make this thing work going in. And with everything Hedo has said and done so far, it doesn’t seem to be where the sale was made.

And let’s face it – Colangelo has a pretty bad track record when it comes to free agents. Aside from Nash, there was the immediate failure of Fred Jones and the drawn-out failings of Jason Kapono. And he didn’t fare well in terms of trying to integrate a veteran presence in the form of JO. But here’s what bugs me a little – Hedo does fit. It works. There’s a big part of me that would much rather see Shawn Marion next to Bosh and Bargnani, but I can’t dismiss the feeling that the progress that both Bosh and Bargnani have made this season has been made possible in part due to Hedo. Hedo gives them both space to operate that Marion never could. And he does bring a rhythm and flow to the halfcourt game that was missing before. Forget about Hedo’s personal stats – look at the numbers of those around him and you have to figure he provides more value than might be seen at first glance.

Now – can Hedo look at his value in those terms? I really hope so. Since he made his little noise about needing the ball more, Triano went back to the running game – a la Nash. And it worked. For a quarter or so. Then his starters, on their third game in four nights, slumped their way through the rest of the contest, while the Pacers were happy to run the rest of the way. Hedo could not work any magic whatsoever, nor transfer any to his gassed teammates. If they had just stuck with what had worked over the last ten games, then they would have been fine. But Hedo played his hand, and Triano played his, and the team got lost in the shuffle.

At the same time as they’ve looked to resurrect their running style, they’ve been looking at getting Bosh to be more of a passer and playmaker. Is that something that is going to get Hedo involved more? It would seem likely, but it must seem like putting the cart before the horse for Turkoglu, with Bosh initiating and facilitating in Hedo’s place. And the turnovers have piled up at a pace a little to close to Howard’s along the way.

In Orlando, there were no bigs that needed the ball quite like they do here. Dwight Howard could live off of everything he cleaned up on the boards. The roles worked very well with Hedo using Howard as an option that was just as effective without the ball quite often, particularly in crunch time. Now Hedo is that guy that represents an option, and he doesn’t like the shift in perspective, and it doesn’t exactly make his name jump out at all-star voters. But if he can actually be effective with or without the ball, then I’ll take it and go from there, and look to see more wins piling up.

So I hope they can rest those legs and work out the chemistry in the next few days. Not long ago the 50 millionth man-made chemical was created. Surely the Raptors can come up with something to dissolve black clouds. If not then the coach and GM are going to be faced with some big decisions that will not wait on the back-burner. At some point the ego placating is going to have to stop and sacrifices will need to be asked for. The winning should have made all of that much easier, but if the winning isn’t working for Hedo, then that black cloud is going to have to make way for clear skies.

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