Former Most Improved Player award winner will suit up with his new team in New York tonight.
Hedo Turkoglu, a small forward in his 14th NBA season, signed a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers late this week as the team departed for a seven-game, cross-country road trip.
The Turkish veteran worked out for the Pacific division leaders last week, then signed a deal and rushed to the airport to join his new teammates for a flight to New York, where he will suit up for the first time with the Clippers on Friday.
“It feels great,” Turkoglu said. “I’m really excited, a little bit nervous. It’s a new chapter for me.”
Turkoglu, voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2008, has averaged 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 897 games for Sacramento, San Antonio, Orlando, Toronto and Phoenix.
Turkoglu, who helped Orlando reach the NBA Finals in 2009, provides versatility and scoring punch off the bench for the Clippers, who are 27-13, fourth in the Western Conference.
“He’s another shooter,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “He does something that our other guys do as well. He can space the floor. He’s very skilled and we would like to take advantage of that.”
Turkoglu, 34, has twice been to the NBA playoff semi-finals, giving the Clippers some much-needed post-season experience as they hope to win a playoff series for only the third time since moving from San Diego in 1984.
“What I’ve done in the past made (Rivers) think I would be a good fit,” Turkoglu said. “The feeling right now, kind of nervous, butterflies are there. It has been wild for me just waiting and trying to see what was going to happen.”
Turkoglu has played in only 11 games since the start of the 2012-13 season, benched by a broken hand and fractured cheekbone as well as serving a 20-game ban for using performance-enhancing drugs.
He has not appeared in an NBA game this season and was released by Orlando two weeks ago.