Hedo Turkoglu has agreed to a five-year, $53 million deal with the Raptors, admitting through his agent, Lon Babby, that he changed his mind after giving a verbal commitment to Portland.
The saga took presumably its final turn Saturday when Babby briefed reporters on Turkoglu's verbal commitment, his second thoughts while touring the Blazers' facilities on Thursday, the surprise offer that came in from Toronto on Friday morning, and finally the breakdown of the talks with Portland and the agreement with the Raptors.
"He's committed to Toronto," Babby said on the phone Saturday. "We acknowledge that the process has been a tough one. The moratorium was designed to give free agents time to deliberate and make a decision. Hedo had given a verbal commitment to Portland, and went out there with every intention that he was going to follow through on it. It just never felt right to him, and Toronto jumped in unsolicited with a proposal."
Turkoglu got $3 million more than the Blazers were offering, and Babby has a promise from Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo that he will make whatever roster moves necessary to create the cap space needed to make room for Turkoglu. That involves, at minimum, renouncing the rights to free agents Shawn Marion, Carlos Delfino, and Anthony Parker.
UPDATE: Turkoglu met with Blazers coach Nate McMillan Wednesday night in Orlando and gave his verbal commitment before traveling to Portland on Thursday to tour the facilities. The plan was that Turkoglu was going to Portland to finalize the deal.
But Babby said Turkoglu began having second thoughts upon arriving in Portland. It was widely known that the other team that coveted him was Toronto, which has a large Turkish population, is a "cosmopolitan city" (according to Babby), and is several hours closer by air to Turkoglu's homeland. It was the city Turkoglu's wife was said to have favored from the start of the free-agent process.
But the Blazers made a swift and aggressive push for Turkoglu, becoming the first team to contact him at the start of the negotiating period at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and putting their cards on the table: five years, $50 million, as reported here that morning. But a rival team executive who spoke to CBSSports.com early Friday accurately predicted that Toronto would jump in with a pre-emptive offer and that Babby -- a shrewd negotiator -- would be willing to wait for Colangelo to clear the necessary cap space to follow through on it.
It turns out that by early Friday, Turkoglu already was seriously doubting whether Portland was the right fit and Babby already had communicated his client's second thoughts to Blazers management. Colangelo jumped in with his offer Friday morning, hours before numerous media outlets -- including this one -- began reporting the original agreement between Turkoglu and the Blazers.
UPDATE: Portland's front office initially was irate with Turkoglu's misdirection, according to a high-level source familiar with the situation, who used the word "reneged" to characterize Turkoglu's decision. Another source said the Blazers and Turkoglu had "different priorities," and that it was obvious that Turkoglu and Portland wasn't the right fit. Either way, the Blazers are moving on. They're expected to make a push for Knicks restricted free agent David Lee, who has not received the anticipated interest from teams with cap space like Memphis (which acquired Zach Randolph), Detroit (which spent its money on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva), plus Oklahoma City and Sacramento, neither of which is taking an aggressive posture in the first wave of free agency. The Blazers also are expected to focus on a point guard such as Sixers free agent Andre Miller, and some rival executives wonder if GM Kevin Pritchard will make a play for Lakers free agent Lamar Odom.
The Blazers, Babby said, "are feeling somewhat aggrieved, and justifiably so. We just assumed we had made a verbal commitment and we had every intention of following through on it. ... There was never any intention of hurting anybody."