The Knicks' newest addition in SF Mario Hezonja could have gone to a contender like the Trail Blazers for next season. Instead, he chose the team he used to root for as a kid.
But was fulfilling a childhood dream the only motive for the 23-year-old to join New York's youth movement? Hezonja may have hinted to the main reason why he chose the Knicks in his deal-confirming tweet as he made sure to mention the opportunity to play for new head coach David Fizdale.
Start spreading the news...I want to be a part of it, New York,New York! Very excited to be joining the Knicks and play for coach Fizdale! A dream come true!! #betterhairdaysareahead pic.twitter.com/V7JfOUc9ob- Mario Hezonja (@mariohezonja) July 2, 2018
Hezonja reportedly turned down multi-year contracts with other ballclubs to sign his one-year deal with the Knicks, per The Athletic's Michael Scotto. Playing for Fizdale is the rumored selling point to landing the Croatian forward.
"The main reason is David Fizdale," one NBA source told The Post's Marc Berman. "He sold him. The goal is to be here long term and finish his career. He was a fan of the team growing up."
Fizdale is already popular among his new team, with Kristaps Porzingis showing his excitement following a phone conversation after the Knicks announced his hiring. Damyean Dotson has also touched on the impact Fizdale has made in his early days as head coach.
Having been selected by the Magic immediately after Porzingis in the 2015 NBA Draft, Hezonja could potentially be the replacement for the 7-foot-3 Latvian who is still rehabbing his torn ACL from last season. The 6-foot-8 Hezonja hasn't had the same success as Porzingis, having averaged 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and shot 41.8 percent from the field over 18.4 minutes per game in his first three seasons.
But after a strong second half of last season, Hezonja shows promise as a player that can make an impact. For one NBA scout, Hezonja needs more time to develop.
Luckily for the Knicks, developing young talent is their mission at the moment.
"Hezonja is an enigma to me," the scout noted. "He looked promising as a rookie only to regress until the second part of this past season. He looked awful the first half. Poor instincts, didn't shoot it well. The second part, a light came on for a bit. But he'll wind up being suited as a small stretch 4 versus his natural position at 3. His youth makes him worth a flier, as he can shoot and still has development potential."
Where he fits in the lineup is up to Fizdale. And if the rumors are true, Hezonja is excited to see what he can accomplish in his system.