The Rose Garden crowd gave Hedo Turkoglu a hard time every time he touched the ball. From the introductions right on through the final buzzer, the Rose Garden faithful gave Hedo an earful for spurning the Trail Blazers this summer in free agency. Looking back, it seems like everything happened for the best, but the home crowd wasn’t having any of that.
Neither was Nicolas Batum. In theory, Turkolu would have taken Batum’s spot in the Trail Blazers rotation at small forward were it not for the Turkmens’ preference of the more worldly Toronto. So when Batum went out and put up 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting, one might have thought the Frenchman wanted to show the front office and fans that he was and is the better option as Portland’s small forward. But it turns out that, while Batum did have Hedo on his mind, it wasn’t for the reasons previously mentioned. It goes back farther than that.
It was November 10, 2008, Batum’s seventh game in the NBA. The Trail Blazers were taking on the Magic in Orlando. Portland ended up winning the game 106-99 thanks in part to a 27-point night from Brandon Roy. But even though the Blazers got the win, Batum felt like Turkolgu, who scored 35 points in 42 minutes, got the best of him. For Batum, a player who relishes the task of shutting down opposing players on the offensive end, this was unacceptable.
“I got something special with Hedo because that’s the first guy who kicked my ass last year,” said Batum. “You can’t do that again. I play against him in the summer too, France and Turkey. Boris (Diaw) wants to guard him, I say ‘No no, I got it. I got it.’”
Batum most definitely got it tonight. Turkoglu ended up with a decent night’s work, scoring 14 points, on 5-of-7 shooting, but he was thoroughly outplayed by the guy who might have very well have been his backup this season.