As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the leaves turn frosty, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last full week. Not quite done yet, but close. Today we continue with Hedo Turkoglu, Francisco Garcia, and D.J. Augustin.
There are many mysteries in the world. For a race that's traversed the moon and sent probes beyond our galactic borders, it's both startling and unnerving that we've fallen so short in investigating the Mariana Trench. We have quite literally no idea what goes on in the absolute depths of the ocean, nor do we have the slightest clue how to model and predict things as close to the grain as the movement of our tectonic plates. We fathom them, but we don't truly understand whether or not tetraquarks and pentaquarks can truly exist. We've built monuments to honor acts of dubious greatness without ever acknowledging the undercurrents that brought together the great men and women to produce the act itself. We do not solve every murder. We do not understand something so fundamental and key to the person as the human brain -- nor do we understand, insofar as we even accept it at all, the concept of a soul. Mysteries, mysteries, mysteries. They challenge and quarrel. They wheeze and they whisper. They flit back and forth in our vision, the answers tantalizingly close but so dreadfully far to task. In the NBA, too, there are mysteries. Confusing idiosyncrasies we'll never quite grasp. One, given today's subject, rings above all others. At least for this guy.
Why on Earth have we all forgiven Hedo Turkoglu?
Perhaps my assessment is wrong on its face. That's quite possible. I don't know a ton of Raptors fans, and the Suns fans I do know don't tend to care much about the little microcosm moves like Turkoglu's acquisition. But for a sport that tends to treat with ill repute players that blow off their franchise and squander their new contract, something about Turkoglu's general avoidance of blame in the mainstream media bugs me. He's Hedo Turkoglu -- the wacky, fun-loving Turkish schlub with a penchant for silly chatter and fun in-game passes. But he's also Hedo Turkoglu -- the complete jerk who completely blew off a Toronto team that broke the bank to sign him, forced a trade out of Toronto, then proceeded to play arguably the worst ball of his life next to Steve Nash eventually necessitating yet another pennies-on-the-dollar trade. To say that he's played poor basketball since signing his $52.8 million dollar contract is to understate it. You know how everyone has that devil-may-care uncle that tells stupid jokes and gets on everyone's good side anyway? Hedo's been compared with that. His play could also be compared with what would happen if you took said uncle -- with no training, preparation, or exercise -- and told him to play in the NBA. It'd be a bloodbath. Much like Hedo's last three years.
And again, I remind you -- this is on a $52.8 million dollar contract! He did a good job with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando, and he was a big asset on those late-aughts Magic teams that were stronger contenders than most people ever accepted. But he's just completely wilted since getting his new contract, and not only has he wilted, he's harmed locker rooms and dismissed team requests and orders like there's no tomorrow. He's taken games off for "illness" and gone clubbing seconds after the game ends. He was brought to Toronto in hopes of inspiring Bosh to stay as a brilliant second banana. He instead was one of the main reasons Bosh simply had to leave. Has he had injury troubles? Sure, a bit. But nothing really excuses his conduct in Toronto, which was unprofessional and tawdry at best. And nothing really excuses the fact that his awful contract messed up Toronto's books and ruined their chances of keeping Bosh, nearly ruined Phoenix (until they were able to snag Gortat out of his wreckage, which was a pretty big coup on their part), and continues to put a stranglehold on Orlando's books.
It'd be one thing if he actually looked like he cared at all. He doesn't. So why exactly do we just give him carte blanche? Is it his love of pizza, a love I admit to sharing? Is it an internal desire to be like Turkoglu -- a millionaire making obscene amounts of money who pays no heed to tact or convention? Do we all just want to be Hedo on the inside, chowing down on pizza and partying for rehab? I don't get it. He's obviously a talented guy, and he's quite a smart player. In his prime, he played a key role on several really good teams. But the way he's conducted his personal affairs in the last three years has been awful to the point of dark comedy, and as a commentariat, we probably shouldn't be quite so willing to look past that just because of a few wacky Youtube clips and a likeable exterior. I'm not, at least.
... also, unrelated note. Why on Earth is Ilyasova doing the same thing?
Francisco Garcia's game doesn't really deserve a capsule. He's extremely frustrating to watch. Give him his excuses, if you want -- he's still something of a disappointment, even if you accept that his career has probably ended a bit prematurely on account of his exploding exercise ball injury (real thing, please click that, it's hilarious). His shot hasn't been falling in what seems like 4 or 5 years. He's been a three point sniper without a scope. A rudderless assassin that can't bring himself to kill a fly. His only real offensive talent, as of late, has been his free throw shooting -- he's made his free throws, although he virtually never drew them, so the whole ordeal was sort of damning with faint praise. He's still played 16 minutes a night on account of the Kings' horrific depth, but he's been depressingly washed up for a few years now. He looked like he'd be much more early in his career, and it's sad that he never quite made it.
The reason I bring him up at all is that he's simply a really good leader, and there isn't enough around-the-league appreciation for the impact a legitimately good leader can have on an NBA team. As bad as his game's been the last few years, he's been sterling -- he wasn't named Team Captain this year, but if I'm remembering right, he spent 3 years in a row as one of the Sacramento captains despite his flagging play. He's an actual, legitimate locker room leader. He was the first player to return to the Kings' practice facility when the lockout ended. He's been known to give advice to younger players and has been instrumental in pulling Tyreke back from the unnamed problems he dealt with during his dreadful sophomore season. He's made a huge mark on this Kings team, and not in a negative way at all -- he's been arguably the only real light in the darkness on a personal level for a group that's been dismal and out of sorts for far too long. Kings fans will be sad to see him go, regardless of how poorly he's played. Because he's simply valuable.He's a good guy. And he's helped keep a modicum of stability in one of the roughest locker rooms in the league, at least right now.
There's another reason, too. I've gone over ten Kings players in this series. They've run a wide gamut of quality -- solid players like Cousins, dismal players like Salmons, curious players like Evans. But one of the main goals in this series is to try and find things to appreciate about players and teams that most people don't know about. With the Kings as low-down as they are right now, that's more important than ever, and it certainly applies on a franchise-wide level as well. Francisco Garcia isn't a phenomenal player, and his rampant three-point chucking isn't going to win him any awards for entertainment value. But he's one of the league's biggest examples of the fact that you don't need to be a good player to be a role model. You don't need to be a big name to help calm an errant locker room, nor do you need to do everything right to find your real value. He's found his calling. Not as a player, obviously, but as an assistant coach and a locker room guru? It's hard to do much better. And as incompetent as people think the Kings may be, that doesn't mean everyone in their locker room is incompetent, nor does it mean it couldn't be worse without guys like Garcia to reel in everyone's worst tendencies.
So, yes. Garcia deserves a capsule. He deserves your respect, too. If you can believe it.
Follow D.J. Augustin's season if you would like to cringe.
You know that one movie? You've seen it, I'm sure. I can't seem to recall the name, but I know you've seen it. It's about this group of unsuspecting poorly-acted teenagers who amble off to do some in-retrospect-stupid but normally innocuous thing together. The group enters into an unwitting bond with some unknown phantasm that proceeds to make their lives -- what's left of them -- alternatingly miserable and horrifying for the duration of the film, culminating in the untimely demise of each and every one of them. There's some weird equivocation about morals that doesn't fit the movie at all and some odd stabs at relevance beyond the grotesque -- it's in your best interest not to heed these. It's a slasher flick. It doesn't do "meaning". Oh, I remember what it's called. I'll go with Any B-List Horror Movie Ever for $1,000, Alex. It's a tried-and-true formula, one that makes a predictable amount of profit on an exceedingly low budget. It's dirty. It's corny. It's unmemorable. But it's entertaining, at least in small doses, and it preys on the bases instincts of the moviegoer to make a quick buck. Quite reflective of the industry that produces them.
The reason I bring it up at all is simple. I've become convinced the only possible way to understand D.J. Augustin's 2013 season is to assume that he's an internalized version of a B-List horror film. Because that's exactly how bad it's been. To frame it in the same way I wrote above: the Augustin Horror Story starts when this collected group of unsuspecting basketball talents amble off to change their scenery and join the Indiana Pacers, with expectations low. In retrospect, maybe he should've stuck in Charlotte. But he didn't know that at the time. But Augustin and his group of merry talents made a mistake. They made a deal with some ghastly off-screen ghoul, somewhere in there -- the second he reaches Indiana, he starts to notice things missing. The handle he once had is shaky and unreliable, found victim of a chance heart attack. His shooting talents are found, but unfortunately, they're dead in a ditch. Shot 20 times and carved in twine. Yikes. His defense was found hanging from a bannister, riddled with stab wounds. And his demeanor? They haven't even found the body for that one yet.
Look, I'm not a huge fan of Augustin's, so the amount I care about his struggles is relatively slim. In a vacuum. But my God has he been bad. The horror movie thing is only the slightest of exaggerations. Augustin has shot -- I kid you not -- 27% from the floor this year. Couple this with 22% from three and you begin to see the outlines of the problem. His assist rate has been middling (and roughly the only part of his game that's even that), but his turnovers are up and his rebounding is down. His defense -- never very good -- is even more obvious in the Indiana scheme when he steps in for George Hill. He's never been a phenomenal player, but he's certainly never been an abysmal one either. Until now. The only way to properly contextualize and understand his season is to understand him as a horror film, because that's frankly the only way I can make any sense whatsoever out of it. It's this bloody, nasty slasher that you can't stop watching because the train wreck simply gets so all-encompassing. You can't bear to look away.
I mean, cripes -- the man's a career 36% three point shooter, and was a career 37% three point shooter until this season. He averaged 41% from the floor and 88% from the line. He simply has completely lost his ability to shoot, and none of his shots look like they'll even hit rim. He can't seem to run any of Vogel's sets successfully, he doesn't seem to have any idea what he's doing out there, and his demeanor is so negative and tawdry you can't imagine ANY team wanting to put up a flyer on him after this pitiful performance. That's the other thing. Augustin is 25 years old this season -- he just turned 25 in November. He's not exactly Jrue Holiday, but the boy's not old -- he's a young player who just signed a one-year contract in an effort to earn a larger extension when he was out of the Charlotte grind. Instead, he may have played his way entirely out of the league -- he's averaging 12 minutes a night and he probably won't get a whole lot more. Over his last 7 games, in fact, he's averaging just 10. I'd like to have some kind of moral or connective close that sheds light on why this happened, or makes some highly insightful comment about Augustin's struggles. But I've got nothing. Because in the end, it's a slasher film with no coherent moral, rhyme, or reason. And pretending it means anything more is a disrespect to the basketball talent lost to the dread seas.
• • •
At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. In-deed -- updates on Christmas AND Christmas Eve! Next thing you know, I'll be telling you I might put up another update later! ... Wait, actually, I am planning on doing that. Dunno if I'll succeed, but we'll see.
Player #355 has a cult, basically. If you don't like him, most people on Basketball Twitter will despise you. I'm not his biggest fan, but I can appreciate him from time to time.
Player #356 has a spotted past, a confusing present, and an uncertain future. But right now he's the 2nd best player on one of the best team's in the league. So I suppose we can ignore it, for a time.
Player #357 likes saying stupid things to reporters when he thinks other people aren't listening. News flash, man -- word's global now. Catch up.
Adieu. And have a wonderful Christmas.
• • •