Impressive NBA Starts For Turkish Trio

04.01.2012

EUROPEANS IN THE NBA

Three members of the Turkish contingent of players in the NBA who came up well short of expectations at the EuroBasket are reminding everyone why this national team should be among the favorites to reach the podium in Slovenia in 2013.

12. Ömer Asik (Turkey)
Ömer Asik has been playing some big minutes for Chicago

Across the Atlantic, Omer Asik is averaging 19.2 minutes per game with the Chicago Bulls, rookie Enes Kanter is causing a stir in Utah with some strong work in the interior and Hedo Turkoglu has returned to his top form with the Orlando Magic.

Here is a look at each.

Omer Asik

Asik, 25, has seen his minutes with Chicago increase substantially from his rookie campaign when he averaged 12.1 per game.

To do so with the Bulls is impressive, too, since Chicago are among the teams deemed to be title contenders.

While he needs improvement offensively, Asik is proving to be a force on the boards and defensively with his shot-blocking.

In the Bulls' last two games, wins over Memphis and red-hot Atlanta, Asik had eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks against the Grizzlies and nine boards and three swats against the Hawks.

Last month, shortly after the end of the NBA Lockout when the Bulls were having their first practices, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was all smiles when asked about Asik.

"Defensively, he's terrific," Thibodeau said.

"That part hasn't changed. Offensively, he's working hard on improving."

Enes Kanter

Kanter had expected to have Mehmet Okur alongside him this season yet the Jazz traded his fellow Turk to New Jersey.

Just 19 years of age, the 2.11m, 121.1kg Kanter is playing almost 15 minute per contest and averaging 4.8 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Both of his baskets in Tuesday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks came on dunks in the second quarter.

The Jazz got five points and five rebounds from Kanter in the game.

The Jazz knew they were drafting a work in progress last June when selecting Kanter.

They were reassured when he showed flashes of brilliance at the EuroBasket for Turkey.

Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor considered what lay ahead for Kanter after the lockout ended less than a month ago.

"This is going to be great for him," O'Connor said.

Hedo Turkoglu
Hedo Turkoglu has found some fine form early on in the season

"We explained to him that it's a journey, that there's a destination that we'd like him to get to and there's going to be a lot of stops on the way.

"He's going to run over himself, he's going to run over other people. But he's willing to work, and that's the key thing."

Hedo Turkoglu

If the 32-year-old Turkoglu has been dogged by inconsistency in his career, he still has the ability to make big plays at the highest level of the game.

The versatile forward is averaging 14.2 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

"He's that guy who can create his own shot," said teammate Glen Davis said.

"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, who reached the NBA Finals with Orlando in 2009 and signed a big extension with the club, was then traded to Toronto for the 2009-10 season.

He endured an awful stint in Canada was ultimately shipped to Phoenix before returning to Orlando in another trade last season.

Turkoglu is playing an average of 32 minutes per game.

The Others

Turkey's Ersan Ilyasova, Okur and Semih Erden are also in the NBA.

Ilyasova is averaging seven points and 6.8 rebounds per game for Milwaukee while Okur is contributing 7.5 points and 5.3 boards to the Nets.

Erden, who was injured while playing for Besiktas during the lockout, is still recovering and has yet to play for Cleveland.


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