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(Darren Calabrese)
(Darren Calabrese)

The Turkoflu Add to ...

One game, a thing, v3.70:

Look, for all I know, Hedo Turkoglu has Swine Flu, the Black Plague and a rare, crippling case of mononucleosis all rolled into one, and he became overcome at halftime making playing on against the Utah Jazz not only impossible, but a health risk to everyone in the building for last night's sorry, sorry, affair.

It's not for me to speculate on people's health, injuries or infirmities, and the concept of pro athletes biting bullets and playing through the regular season on broken bones is deeply flawed anyway.

The season is wayyyyyy too long and the opposition is wayyyy too good for that kind of made-for-TV-drama. One game? A playoff series? Maybe you give credit for guys trying to play hurt or in pain and maybe even being able to pull it off.

But during the regular season - in pro sports at least - I've come to realize that the only sensible option is to throw all your energy into getting yourself healthy and healed.

The result is guys sitting out games with injuries a lot of guys might play a men's league game with. Personally, I've played men's league games with all sorts of injuries and illnesses on the basis that a) the difference between me playing hurt and playing healthy is pretty minimal because slow is slow b) no one really cares if I'm playing badly because I've got a sore ankle or wonky hamstring; I'm just as likely to play badly when feeling great and full of beans, thus trying to make plays that I'm not good enough to make c) even if I set myself back a little bit, I've got a week until the next game, which I'll probably have to miss because my wife has to work and my daughter has gymnastics and d) I can usually find someone to cover who's in worse shape than I am and so I embarrass myself completely.

In the NBA there are a handful of guys so above the pack that even at 75 per cent they're potentially dominant - LeBron, Howard, Kobe, etc. But most NBA players are good enough to exploit almost anyone playing at less than their best, and there is usually another player - healthy and eager - who can do a better job than you can, sick or injured.

Okay, preamble over.

The problem with Turkoglu leaving the game at halftime with an upset stomach is that he's got no track record of leaving it all on the floor, so to speak. From his training camp sabbatical to his sore hip to his sore knee to his sore ankle and now his sore tummy, if Turkoglu ain't right, Turkoglu ain't going.

And, as I point out above, most times that's the right move to make. And let me say out loud here: If he was puking his guts out at halftime and moaning on the floor calling for his mother, by all means, I'm not suggesting he should have or could have continued to play.

But the real issue is this: Is there one person who - upon hearing Turkoglu wasn't coming back after the half - didn't roll their eyes?

I'm still waiting for Jay Triano to throw one of his players under the Bentley publicly. When he was asked last night if there was any indication that Turkoglu was feeling sick at any point before the game, Triano didn't exactly leap to his defence, basically saying that the first he'd heard of anything was at halftime when he was told Turkoglu wasn't going to play any more.

Like I said, there's every chance that he was really, really sick. But fair or not, Turkoglu doesn't have much credibility on the issue. This is a big problem. It may be an image problem, but it's a real problem nonetheless.

All pro athletes really want from the teammates is for them to perform. Be an ass? Fine. Pout? Fine. Whine about your contract? Fine. If you play hard and practice hard and help your teammates reach their goals? All is forgiven.

Do none of those things but don't play hard, well and consistently? The nicest guy in the world will get ostracized pretty quick.

Hedo seems like a genial guy, quick with a smile, friendly, all of that. And you can make the case that he has, in some hard-to-define way made the Raptors better: Bosh is having a career season, Bargnani too. Could it be because Turkoglu has made the game easier for them with a flurry of Gretzky assists?

Maybe.

But it's just as hard to make the case that the $53-million man has his teammates' backs and will go to war with them and for them, because he hasn't so far and it's getting pretty late for him to prove that he will.

Kind makes you feel queasy.

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