In a sudden rush at the end of a frenzied week, the Toronto Raptors have remade their roster and signed free-agent forward Hedo Turkoglu, The Globe and Mail has confirmed.
The versatile Orlando Magic forward appeared poised to sign with the Portland Trail Blazers until a late bid by the Raptors -- in excess of $50-million over five seasons for the 30 year-old -- caused the change of heart, even as Turkoglu was in Portland visiting with the Trail Blazers.
Turkoglu had agreed on a five-year, $50-million (all currency U.S.) deal with the Blazers, but will sign with the Raptors for more than $10-million a season. Signing Turkoglu means the Raptors will have to renounce their rights to their existing free agents - Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker - to create the cap space for Turkoglu.
Turkoglu's agent, Lon Babby, didn't immediately return calls from The Globe and Mail and the Raptors would not comment. ESPN.com first reported yesterday that Turkoglu had agreed to join the Trail Blazers after helping the Orlando Magic reach the NBA final this season. The team won't be able to officially confirm the deal until the July 8th.
The other Raptor consideration, Trevor Ariza, is headed to the Houston Rockets.
Turkoglu, a 6-foot-10 forward, opted out of his Orlando contract last week when the team acquired Vince Carter from New Jersey. Turkoglu averaged 16.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a game last season. In the final, he averaged 18 points against the champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The nine-year NBA veteran from Turkey reportedly favoured Toronto because of the city's international makeup. Due $7.3-million (all currency U.S.) next season in the final year of his $36-million, six-year deal with Orlando, he was said to be seeking a long-term deal worth nearly $10-million annually.
The Raptors also reportedly considered extending a five-year deal for about $39-million to Ariza. Instead, the Lakers' swingman agreed to a five-year, $33.5-million deal with Houston on Thursday.
Ariza went to Houston just as Ron Artest decided to leave and play for the Lakers. Ariza is likely to take Artest's spot in the Rockets' starting lineup.
The 6-foot-8 Ariza averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Lakers last season. The 24-year-old Ariza earned $3.1-million last season and boosted his value during the playoffs by averaging 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Ariza was acquired by the Lakers in a trade from Orlando in November of 2007. He just completed his fifth NBA season after being drafted by the New York Knicks with the 43rd overall pick in 2004.
In other NBA news, the Boston Celtics offered Detroit forward Rasheed Wallace a contract yesterday, according to the Boston Globe.
The 35-year-old Wallace can play the low post and also has exceptional shooting range. He averaged 12 points a game for the Detroit Pistons last year. Wallace earned $13.68-million last season as he finished up a five-year contract. Teams pursuing Wallace now would be offering the mid-level exception, worth between $5.6-million and $5.8-million.
In Los Angeles, Phil Jackson will return to coach the Lakers next season, getting a clean bill of health following a record championship season.
The Hall of Fame coach turns 64 in September and said on the team's website yesterday he got the go-ahead for another season after consulting the team doctor.
Jackson led the Lakers to their 15th NBA championship and his 10th title in June, breaking the mark he shared with the late Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach.
"I feel confident that I can gainfully pursue an NBA season with another long playoff postseason," he said. "All things point to go!"
He signed a two-year contract extension last season and holds the option on a second year. Last season, Jackson missed two West Coast road games because of pain and swelling in his lower legs caused by plantar fasciitis, a problem he had checked out. He blamed late-night flights that aggravated the condition.
He has undergone two hip replacement operations since October of 2006 - using a cane at various times - and walks with a noticeable hitch in his step. He underwent an angioplasty in 2003 to open a clogged artery in his heart.
Jackson became the Lakers' coach in 1999, and guided the team to NBA titles in each of his first three seasons. He left after the 2003-04 season but returned the following season.
Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s. His .705 regular-season winning percentage is tops in league history and his 1,041 victories are sixth best.
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