The off-season is where sports executives earn their salaries. In the NBA, the 2009 off-season's free agency signing period started with a bang. Former Orlando Magic and Turkish national team star Hedo Turkoglu went to Portland, Oregon to meet with the team's officials as soon as free agency began on July 1. Tellingly, Turkoglu's wife did not make the trip. All the same, by the end of his sojourn, it appeared as though Turkoglu was a Portland Trail Blazer.
Lurking in the background was a rumour, first reported on twitter by ESPN's Ric Bucher, that Turkoglu's wife liked Toronto. Bucher twittered: "Toronto's shot at getting Hedo: apparently his wife loves the city. Any [happily] married man can tell you how much weight that carries." To the surprise of no married man, the news filtered out a few days later that the Turkish star had signed with Toronto. So far, the Raptors are the biggest winners. Prior to that move, the team looked stuck in neutral with no great hope of moving forward with their current roster. Furthermore, the team's star player Chris Bosh was making noises that he would no longer be interested in playing on the Canadian team if changes weren't made.
Back to twitter, following the Turkoglu news, Bosh tweeted: "We got Hedo. Next season's going to be a lot of fun." I have long been a proponent of the man they call the Michael Jordan of Turkey. Based on my columns in May and June of this year, I probably earned the right to be called the president of his fan club. Why such praise? Turkoglu has the got guts. He takes the big shots with the game on the line and makes them. He is the sort of player who may look terrible at various points in the game but with two seconds to play he then shakes it off and hits the winning shot.
More to the point, the Raptors needed a player who can create offense. Bosh is not that guy and now he doesn't have to try to be. Bosh is at best when he is the second option on offense. The only downside to bringing Turkoglu is that they blew all their salary cap space and now may not be able to sign any other players. The other big winners were Boston Celtics. They brought in former Detroit Pistons star Rasheed Wallace on a two-year contract. Known for his quick temper and penchant for collecting technical fouls, Wallace is also a smart player who can shoot, rebound and defend. His unselfish style of play should mesh well with the Celtics existing core of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
While all of these players are getting older, they may have a year or two left of great basketball within them. In any event, Wallace will fit in seamlessly and give the Celtics an awesome team barring injury. The Detroit Pistons moved quickly with all the salary cap space they received from Allen Iverson's expiring contract, signing two great scorers in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. While neither player is going to put the Pistons over the top, they will both light up the scoreboard. If rumours are true, the Pistons will now trade guard Richard Hamilton for a big body down low. The Celtics' free agent Glen Davis is also an option for Detroit.
The favourites to win the NBA championship in 2010 have got to be the San Antonio Spurs. Already loaded with talent, they have now added free agent power forward Antonio McDyess on a three-year, US$15million (Dh55m) contract. Spurs now have so much talent and can win with multiple line-ups. Going by free agency alone, my early prediction for 2010 is the Spurs in six games over the Celtics. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org