Some nights, Hedo Turkoglu plays like he did during the Orlando Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals. He runs the pick-and-roll with precision, finding open teammates or swishing open shots.
Other nights, he struggles as badly as he did during the Magic's disastrous playoff series last spring against the Atlanta Hawks. He misses open shots, then loses his confidence and his aggressiveness.
That's the problem: The Magic need him desperately, but the difference between the effective Turkoglu and the ineffective Turkoglu is enormous.
"He's that guy for us," said power forward Glen Davis, who has played against Turkoglu when Turkoglu was at his best and has seen Turkoglu at his worst.
"He's that guy who can create his own shot. He's that guy who, when we need that bucket, we can go to him. He's that guy when the clock's down or we need a big bucket. As a team, we've got to get him involved."
Turkoglu demonstrated that he still can be one of the Magic's most dangerous players during Monday night's 104-95 win over the Houston Rockets.
The performance evoked memories of the '09 Playoff Edition Turkoglu. He scored a team-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting and dished out four assists. He was at his best during in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points and adding two assists.
"There's no reason he can't play like that," coach Stan Van Gundy said.
And yet even Van Gundy would acknowledge that Turkoglu has been maddeningly inconsistent since Turkoglu since the Magic reacquired him a year ago in a blockbuster trade.
For proof, just flash back to Sunday night, to Orlando's season opener in Oklahoma City. Turkoglu scored just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. His four assists were nice, but his two turnovers hurt. And Kevin Durant sometimes made Turkoglu look foolish.
Van Gundy has studied Turkoglu's statistics and found that Turk's field-goal percentage, assist rate and overall efficiency compared favorably last season to Turk's numbers in 2008-09.
The question is, Why hasn't Turkoglu been more productive?
One school of thought is that Turkoglu already was on the decline during the 2008-09 regular season but picked up his game considerably in those playoffs. Indeed, that poor regular season was a primary reason why Magic officials decided not to re-sign him after the '09 Finals ended.
Van Gundy believes that Turkoglu often plays too passively.
Van Gundy wants to see the opposite from the 6-foot-10 small forward. He wants Turkoglu to play with confidence.
The coach said: "Part of it is an energy thing, but part of it is just a mentality: 'You're a great player. Make plays.' "
After inking his big free-agent contract, Turkoglu spent one disastrous season with the Toronto Raptors. Then, after a trade to the Phoenix Suns, he still struggled.
The scars from those seasons might run deep.
Turkoglu, 32, could be included in any trade that includes Dwight Howard. If the Magic have to trade their superstar center, most NBA observers believe the team will attempt to divest the rest of Turkoglu's massive contract, too.
Turkoglu has said he tries not to think about a potential deal.
He has said he wants to remain with Orlando.
Monday night, Turkoglu's teammates and coaches showed their faith in him, asking him to play aggressively and look for his shot.
He did that, and the Magic needed his help because point guard Jameer Nelson was feeling the effects of playing the second game of a back-to-back.
After one of his big fourth-quarter plays, Turkoglu shot a glance toward one of the Amway Center tunnels — the tunnel where Magic General Manager Otis Smith was standing and watching the game.
Turkoglu winked and nodded his head.
He had put his stamp on the game.
Just like old times.
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