NBA: Turkoglu to play but won’t start after benching
By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Toronto Raptors forward Hedo Turkoglu was back in the rotation on Monday night against Charlotte, but not as a starter a night after being benched.
Turkoglu, who signed a five-year, $53 million free-agent deal with the Raptors last offseason, was a healthy scratch for the first time in over seven years in Sunday’s loss to Miami. That came after reports that he was seen out on the town hours after missing Friday’s loss to Denver with a stomach virus.
Coach Jay Triano started Antoine Wright ahead of Turkoglu, but said he would play as the Raptors try to stop a late-season slide that has put a playoff spot in jeopardy.
“It’s something that we deal with internally. Over and down with,” Triano said. “That was yesterday and we move on to today.”
Triano wouldn’t say how long Turkoglu would come off the bench, but seemed unconcerned if Turkoglu would accept his new role.
“Probably more readily than not playing at all,” he said.
Turkoglu brushed off several questions about the incident Monday, but acknowledged he wasn’t told he wouldn’t play against the Heat after he saw his streak of 236 consecutive starts snapped. Toronto blew a 17-point lead and lost its third straight game.
“I’m just trying to be positive,” Turkoglu said. “My dad told me, ’Silence always is a good solution.”’
Turkoglu has had a rocky year after leaving Orlando in free agency. He was criticized for not being in top shape in training camp, and his defense and shot selection have come into question.
He entered Monday’s game averaging 11.9 points on 41 percent shooting from the field.
“If I get an opportunity, I’ll try to do my best,” Turkoglu said. “If not, I’ll still cheer for my teammates and help them out.”
Triano, concerned about Toronto’s shaky defense, signaled he liked the way the team meshed with Turkoglu removed from the starting lineup.
“I thought the guys who have been starting have given us pretty good energy. There’s a real focus at the defensive end,” Triano said. “The teams that we have faced recently that are in the playoffs, that’s the way they’re playing. We need to find a way to play that way as well. I think for the large part over the last couple games we’ve done that. So we want to try to keep that momentum going.”