It would seem that we are approaching the end game of the story of free agent Hedo Turkoglu, recently waived by the Orlando Magic, and the Los Angeles Clippers. I was standing next to Doc Rivers at the Clippers training facility Tuesday morning when he enthused "We're looking at him strong. I can say that much." Statements from head coaches/SVPs of Basketball Ops don't get much more definitive than that.
I understand the appeal of Turkoglu. The guy has always been one of the most skilled 6'10 players in the world, and at 34 there's no reason that he should definitively be finished. He's always had a game based on skill and finesse -- it's not like he was outjumping or outquicking guys ten years ago in Sacramento. Doc loves him some playmakers, his top playmaker is out for another month, and he's feeling a little exposed at present. I get it.
So while the evidence strongly suggests that Hedo's not just over the hill, but has in fact proceeded quite a goodly distance down and wound up in a muddy trench very near the bottom of the other side of the hill, it's within the realm of possibility that he's rejuvenated and healthy and in shape and re-energized by the opportunity to be out of a bad situation in post-Dwight Orlando.
All of which screams to me "10 day contract."
"Sure, Hedo, we'll give you a test drive, take you out for a spin, give you a chance to prove that the three games you played in Slovenia in September at EuroBasket when you shot 18% were not representative, and that the last two NBA seasons in which you've played a total of 11 games and shot 26% were not the swan song of your career. Play well on this road trip, and you've got a spot for the rest of the season."
So I find these tweets suggesting that in fact the Clippers will sign him for the rest of the season without said test drive somewhat disconcerting.
Hidayet Türkoğlu is in LA. Pending a physical, he will sign a contract with Clippers until the end of this season.— Ismail Senol (@ismailsenol) January 15, 2014
Last tweet from Turkish basketball maven @ismailsenol meshes with rumbles out there that Hedo has been hoping to land more than mere 10-day— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 15, 2014
Walking this back a bit, let's realize that so far, one and only one source -- Ismail Senol -- has the Clippers offering Hedo a guaranteed deal. Other articles and posts you've seen at this point saying that the Clippers will sign him all trace back to Senol's tweet. Senol's pretty plugged in to all things Turkish hoops, but Hedo's agent may have an agenda here as well.
When Stein says that Turkoglu has been hoping to land more than a 10 day deal, well, duh. Of course he's going to hope for that. But does Hedo Turkoglu -- whose last two official NBA actions were to get busted for PEDs and to get waived -- have any leverage at this point?
The question of 10 day or guaranteed matters -- though perhaps not as much as I once thought. Here's why. I'm more or less spitballing on the pro-rated salaries owed to Maalik Wayns and Stephen Jackson and the 10 day deals for Wayns and Darius Morris, but accounting for those monies and the Clippers 13 fully guaranteed contracts, I have the team about $2.8M away from the hard cap imposed on them at $4M over the luxury tax line. The surprising discovery that Wayns was not in fact guaranteed on December 1st freed up some money. With only pro-rated veteran minimum deals to offer anyone at this point (the Clippers have no exceptions to use), and with about half of the season to go, those deals will run the Clippers somewhere in the $440K range pro-rated, less as each day slips by. (Again, I'm spitballing -- pro-rating salaries for cap purposes was not my college major. I can do the math just fine, but I don't really know all the nuances of how the CBA requires salary to be applied.)
The real question is whether a mistake on Turkoglu -- as in "Oh shit, he really is completely useless at this point, just like all the data from the last two full years suggested" -- just costs the Clippers money, or also costs them the opportunity to fix the mistake. However, with $2.8M to spend at $440K or less for each full deal, the Clippers have six or seven bites at the apple. It would be cheaper to give him a 10 day deal -- but it's not that expensive to sign him for the rest of the year.
The one place it could end up mattering is in trades -- either using the Eric Bledsoe exception or in a player-for-player swap where the Clippers need to absorb some salary. Other than that, by my math the Clippers could sign Turkoglu, waive him, sign Andrew Bynum, waive him, sign Lamar Odom waive him, sign Ivan Johnson, waive him, and then sign Jason Collins and Drew Gooden. I think. I'm not suggesting they do that of course -- just saying that this is not the last bullet in the clip. (Note that they could just as easily waive Antawn Jamison or Ryan Hollins or even Byron Mullens, though in Mullens case it would cost them a bit more since his contract is guaranteed next season.)
I still hope that they're going to start Hedo off on a 10 day. It seems to me to be the reasonable choice for a guy who has essentially been out of the league for two years. Heck, he should probably be headed to the D-League at this point. I just don't see how Hedo and his agent are in any position to make demands. But it's not my money, and the opportunity cost is relatively low. Doc certainly liked what he saw in Turkoglu's workouts and if he looks sharp enough that he justifies a roster spot with his play, this is all moot.
Still, I hope the report is wrong.