Free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu changed his mind Friday and decided not to join the Portland Trail Blazers, opting instead to accept a five-year $53 million offer from the Toronto Raptors, sources told ESPN.com.
The decision left the Blazers livid and was a huge coup for the Raptors, who have promised Turkoglu all of the salary-cap space they will have from renouncing their rights to Shawn Marion, Anthony Parker and Carlos Delfino, which will likely add up to a starting salary in the $10.1 million range, with eight percent annual raises.
The Raptors have until July 7 to renounce Marion, Delfino and Parker, so it remains a possibility and that a sign-and-trade deal could take shape between Toronto and Turkoglu's former team, Orlando. But as of now, it is straight up deal between Turkoglu and Toronto that can be announced July 8.
A source close to the discussions said Turkoglu had given a verbal commitment to the Blazers on Thursday, then alerted the team on Friday morning that he was having second thoughts. By mid-afternoon Pacific time, the Blazers were told the deal was dead and Turkoglu would be signing with the Raptors.
"Portland did everything we asked them to do, and they would be justified if they feel aggrieved. He simply decided Toronto was a better fit," agent Lon Babby said Saturday
Turkoglu will make about $3 million more over the life of the contract than he would have made in Portland, but a bigger reason for his change of heart, a source told ESPN.com, was his desire to play in Toronto, a more international and cosmopolitan city -- one with a large Turkish population -- and his familiarity with the Eastern Conference after having spent the last five seasons with the Magic.
Turkoglu's about-face sent shockwaves throughout the NBA, and parallels were being drawn between his decision and the 2004 episode when Carlos Boozer reneged on a deal to re-sign with Cleveland after they released him from his contract, then stunned the Cavs by signing with Utah. The difference in this case, according to one person with detailed knowledge of the discussions, was that Turkoglu did not intentionally or unintentionally deceive the Blazers, but instead had a change of heart after giving the Blazers his word.
Earlier Friday, ESPN.com's Henry Abbott reported that Turkoglu had agreed in principle to a deal with the Trail Blazers, citing sources. The report, which said the deal couldn't be formally signed until the NBA salary cap is set next Wednesday, followed a Wednesday night dinner in Orlando between Turkoglu and Blazers head coach Nate McMillan, followed by two days of negotiations.
After ESPN.com reported the agreement in principle, several news organizations confirmed it, using sources, before the deal fell apart hours later.
Turkoglu, a 6-foot-10 forward and nine-year veteran who played a prominent role in the Magic's recent trip to the NBA Finals, played for Sacramento and San Antonio before signing with Orlando as a free agent in 2004.
This season, following Jameer Nelson's shoulder injury in January, he often ran Orlando's fourth-quarter offense. His size, shooting and passing skills created matchup problems for the Celtics and Cavaliers in the playoffs, and against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, Turkoglu averaged 18 points.
The Blazers now go back to having about $9 million in salary cap space to bolster a team that won 54 games last season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2003, but it was unclear where they would turn their attention after expending all their energy in pursuit of Turkoglu while several other free agent small forwards, including Ron Artest and Trevor Ariza, were negotiating deals elsewhere.
Sources told ESPN.com Saturday that the Blazers have already had serious discussions about making at run at Knicks restricted free agent forward David Lee, and another intriguing possibility could be Marion, who turned down a four-year offer from Toronto in excess of $30 million, a source told ESPN.com.
As for the Raptors, the signing signaled their intention of trying to immediately assemble a championship-caliber team that could present matchup problems for Orlando, Boston and Cleveland as they try to persuade superstar Chris Bosh to stay in Toronto when he becomes a free agent next summer.
Toronto's projected starting five for 2009-10 now includes Turkoglu, Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and rookie DeMar DeRozan, with Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries and Roko Ukic the key reserves until general manager Brian Colangelo fills out the roster with minimum-salaried players. Humphries and backup guard Quincy Douby have only partial guarantees for next season, and it was not immediately clear whether they would be waived -- and whether unrestricted free agent Joey Graham would be renounced -- to clear additional cap space for Turkoglu.