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Magic to break bank to keep Turk

HEDO Turkoglu emptied his locker, shook hands with teammates and walked out of the Orlando Magic's practice facility on Tuesday. The Magic are optimistic it wasn't the last time.

Chief operating officer Alex Martins said the team was prepared to go over the luxury tax for the first time in its history, perhaps giving the Magic the space they need to re-sign the soon-to-be free agent Turkoglu and remain a contender to return to the NBA finals.

"The luxury tax won't be a hindrance," Martins said.

Turkoglu, Orlando's starting forward and a key component to its Eastern Conference title, reiterated on Tuesday that he's planning to opt out of the last year of his contract to become a free agent on July 1.

The Turk would make about US$7.3 million next season in the final year of a US$36 million, six-year deal.

"Opting out doesn't mean I'm going to leave," he said. "I'm looking for the best opportunity for myself and my family. I hope everything will work out for both sides and I stay here because I became Turkoglu here. It's a good time for me to make a decision, and hopefully everything will work out and I'll be in a Magic jersey."

Backup Polish center Marcin Gortat will be looking for a pay raise. He will be a restricted free agent and likely get a contract worth well more than the US$770,00 he made this season, making it difficult for Orlando to retain him and Turkoglu.

Free-agent market

Magic General Manager Otis Smith said he's prepared to let Turkoglu and Gortat explore the free-agent market before making an offer. "You're not going to buy a house without appraising it first," Smith said. "Appraise it."

Orlando has made no secret that re-signing Turkoglu is its biggest goal this offseason.

The 2.09-meter forward provides all kinds of matchup problems for opponents. His rare combination of size and ball skills have made him the player Orlando runs its offense through when it counts.

But it will be difficult to re-sign him because Orlando is hampered with big contracts to its All-Star core of Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis, who will be entering the third year of his US$118 million, six-year deal.



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