Hedo Turkoglu was ballin' last year. There's really no other way to say it. On top of nailing clutch shots against the Celtics and Pistons (leaving TV execs who had scheduled the Magic during main events as fodder saying "Who?!"), being second on the Magic in points, rebounds, and assists, 'Turk' topped it off by winning the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. So what do you do after you've helped the Magic to a division title, their first playoff win in over a decade, and won the Most Improved Player award? I talked to Hedo recently to find out.
MM: What did winning the Most Improved Player Award mean to you?
HT: It meant a lot. It was like getting an award from the people that showed how much I've improved, not just statistically but as a player. It put me at the All-Star level, at the headliner level, since I didn't make the All-Star team. It mean a lot for people to recognize how far I've come
MM: What are some of your goals regarding your game coming into this season?
HT: Adding more consistency. Being aggressive, and playing my game. That's going to help. I have confidence in myself, my coach has it, my teammates have it. I just have to go out and compete every single night. I need to focus offensively and defensively. I need to try and attack the basket and take the open shots. I need to read the defense, and keep being active.
MM: You hit a lot of last second shots, and that obviously goes with being a leader. Do you see yourself being in that situation a lot this year?
HT: If they put me in that situation, I'll be ready. I have confidence in myself. If I'm in that situation I'll be ready. It's just believing in yourself, really.
MM: I've been told that when you're on the road, you'll have a large contingent of Turkish fans out to support you like there was in LA last year. What does that mean to have the support of your countrymen?
HT: It's so big. Seeing all those people coming out. I know that all my fans follow me throughout the season, but seeing my native people in the stands while I'm playing, it's really big. I really appreciate their support, and the only thing I can do is thank them and try and shake some hands and take pictures. That's really special for me.
MM: The Magic elected not to discuss an extension with you until after this season. How does that affect your opt-out decision next year?
HT: You know what? I never really think about it. I think it's tough to focus on stuff that's not till next year. If they're trying to see if last year was a surprise year for Turk or if he's growing as a player and a person, that's understandable. If I don't go out and play like I did last year, then what will happen? So I have to just go out and play my game. Everything else will get taken care of. Even if a deal was done, it would be the same, I still have to go out and play and grow. And hopefully we'll be successful. I can't be like "Oh, I have to opt-out next year." That's going to affect my play if I try and play for my contract.
MM: I know you've spent some time at point and the 2 and the 3 in camp, where do you feel more comfortable?
HT: To be honest, I'd have to say the three forward. As long as I'm on the court with the ball in my hands, and able to do my stuff on the court, it doesn't matter. As long as I'm getting my minutes and able to create open shots for me or my teammates, that's the main thing for me right now. Playing point guard is hard in this league, but if that's what I need to do, I can do it.
MM: Has there been anyone that's really impressed you in camp?
HT: Everybody's actually really impressed. We had a great year last year, and we took another step with the division championship, but everyone's got to improve. We're really team-focused. I played all summer, Dwight played on the Olympic team, so we're in good shape. We're in a good place right now, together.
MM: With all the bad blood between the Pistons and the Magic last year, do you consider them to be your rivals at this point?
HT: You know, every team we play this year is going to be a rival. Everyone wants to get in our way. We want to go all the way this year. We're going to do our best to reach that goal. Whoever comes, we have to beat them. Detroit, Boston, whoever. It's going to be important how we compete against those teams.
MM: I know you were close to Jason Williams, who just retired. What are your thoughts on his decision?
HT: I'm not sure why he did that. But he was a huge help to me my first year in Sacramento. I was glad to have people like him around. One day we're all going to stop playing basketball, and those relationships are going to matter. You can't play forever, you know. He'll be my friend over time. He's a good guy and he helped me a lot.
MM: What are your thoughts on playing overseas?
HT: You know what, I came from Europe, so I know what it's like. I think it would be tough for me. I came from Europe to here. Why would I go back? But there are a lot of opportunities. I'll do whatever's best for my family. I'll just have to wait and see how the opportunities come around.
Special thanks to Hedo for his time and Jason Wallace for help with this interview.