NBA rumors: Mario Hezonja back to Barça?

Mario Hezonja’s return to Europe with Panathinaikos after spending five seasons in the NBA has caught the attention of his former club FC Barcelona, which is looking to bring back the Croatian player next season. As reported by SER’s Pacojo Delgado, the 2021 Liga Endesa champions are close to bringing 26-year-old Hezonja back. On top of that, Barcelona has asked Cory Higgins for a 10% salary cut, and the player is likely to refuse and move on to Olimpia Milano.

More on Mario Hezonja Free Agency

Panathinaikos OPAP announced that the team has reached an agreement with Mario Hezonja for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. The addition comes just a couple of days before the EuroLeague deadline for registering new players to the competition on February 24th.
Shams Charania: The Memphis Grizzlies are waiving forward Mario Hezonja, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium . Multiple teams are expected to express interest after training camp ends.
The Portland Trail Blazers have signed free agent forward Mario Hezonja, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. Hezonja (heh-ZONE-yuh), 24, holds career averages of 7.3 points (41.7% FG, 32.1% 3-PT, 81.1% FT), 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 18.9 minutes in 277 games (65 starts) over four seasons with Orlando and New York.
Impending free agent Vince Carter, 42, who announced he will play one more season, would consider the Heat in free agency if Miami is interested, we’re told. He averaged 7.4 points on 42 percent shooting last season. Carter would be among a couple dozen free agent possibilities to fill the Dwyane Wade role. Another name, among others, to keep in mind: Free agent Mario Hezonja.
Over the weekend, Fizdale mentioned the struggle coaching a team loaded with free agents because of the tendency to play for themselves. That’s one thing you can’t accuse Hezonja of doing. “I don’t give a s–t that I’m a free agent,’’ Hezonja told The Post. “I’m trying to help these guys as well. I don’t give a s–t about myself. I’ll be fine. Trust me. I’ll be fine. With my basketball skill, talent and abilities, I’ll always be fine. I just want to help these guys with stuff I’ve been through in my career in both Europe and here.
Hezonja weighed two-year offers from Portland and Sacramento but chose the Knicks’ one-year, $6.5 million package. “I had many opportunities when we met with playoff teams,’’ Hezonja said. “This was my choice. I stand by it strongly. I chose David Fizdale, [team president] Steve Mills and Scott Perry was already there. I know Steve wanted me on draft night [in 2015]. Even through a bad season, I stand strongly and firmly with it. That’s how you figure out how who is who. Through bad and worse, you figure out what kind of relationship we have. And we stand together.’’
Josh Robbins: Mario Hezonja said he also received interest from the Thunder, Lakers and Trail Blazers in free agency. Rob Hennigan, who was the Magic GM who drafted Hezonja, now works for the Thunder.
Mike Vorkunov: Mario Hezonja says he chose the Knicks over interest from the Lakers, Thunder, and the Blazers. He liked the vibe from NYK -- Skyped pre-draft with Steve Mills, knew Fizdale from that process, Perry drafted him. Mills says he tried trading w/ Perry for him when he was in Orlando.
Adrian Wojnarowski: For Hezonja and KNICKS, it's a one-year, $6.5M deal, sources tell ESPN. He'll have a real opportunity to create some traction for his career with the Knicks.
Albert Nahmad: Knicks will use most of the NT-MLE ($8.6M) to sign Mario Hezonja at 1-year, $6.5M, which will hard-cap them at the apron ($129.7M). New York currently has a $109M payroll to 15 players, including Kevin Knox but excluding Mitchell Robinson.
Mario Hezonja: 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
While sources say Mavs continue to consider Curry, DBcom has been told the Mavs have "not ruled out'' free-agent Hezonja, who was the Magic's 2015 first-round pick, fifth overall. (That's not necessarily meant as a locked-in prediction, of course.) He hasn't blossomed in the way they'd hoped, and this season his option wasn't picked up, Orlando passing on having him under team control for another season at the highly-reasonable price of $6.9 million.
Ian Begley: Shortly before midnight, several league execs were under the impression that Mario Hezonja saw the Knicks as his top choice in free agency. It will be interesting to see if a longer contract offer from another suitor impacts negotiations here.
Ian Begley: As free agency opens, there is mutual interest between Mario Hezonja and the Knicks, sources say. Hezonja has multiple suitors and the Knicks are looking to offer short-term contracts to maintain cap space for 2019. Sacramento also has interest in Hezonja.
Michael Scotto: The New York Knicks have interest in unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja, league sources told The Athletic. Knicks general manager Scott Perry was in Orlando when the Magic selected Hezonja fifth overall in 2015.
Brooklyn definitely has interest in Gordon’s teammate, Mario Hezonja, 23. That’s the kind of neighborhood they’re shopping in. Hezonja hasn’t lived up to his billing as the No. 5 pick in 2015, but the Nets have liked him for some time and are known to do the reclamation-project thing. After acquiring the No. 2 (D’Angelo Russell) and No. 3 (Jahlil Okafor) picks in that same draft, and the No. 8 pick from 2014 (Nik Stauskas), Hezonja could be the latest roll of the dice.
NBC Sports California has confirmed that Sacramento is interested in Hezonja if the money is right. He’s an unrestricted free agent, which will help keep his value lower. He’s also only 23 years old and has ties to Peja Stojakovic. The Magic made their intentions clear with Hezonja. They’re moving in a new direction and he is free to roam about the hoops world.
Hezonja has said repeatedly that he adores Orlando and is open to returning to the Magic. Left unsaid, however, is an obvious reality: He must consider other opportunities, especially if another team offers him a clear path toward consistent playing time.
“It’s almost impossible to know what’s going to happen,” Hezonja said. “It’s a weird situation that is great for me. But we’ll see. I love being here, as you can see. But I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Warlando: Mario did say he fells new FO is doing something special. Steve Kyler: Sacramento is a real and viable threat - but I do think the Magic have a chance to keep him especially if the market isn't very robust. Its the bet on yourself scenario - cap should go up in 2019.
The Kings need size on the perimeter, and a target is likely to be Mario Henzonja. The 6-foot-8 swingman was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, but Orlando declined to pick up his option for next season back in October. Hezonja is averaging 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
Hezonja will become an unrestricted free agent in July. Hezonja has said repeatedly he loves living in Orlando, and the Magic can re-sign him over the summer. At the same time, however, Hezonja now is essentially auditioning for other teams, trying to prove he deserves a free-agent contract in a market in which few teams will have significant cap space available.
The Orlando Magic have declined the fourth-year option on forward Mario Hezonja, the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, league sources told ESPN. Hezonja, 22, will become an unrestricted free agent in July. The option would've guaranteed Hezonja $5.2 million in the 2018-19 season.
The decision to allow Hezonja to become a free agent next summer has a mutual benefit for a new front office who didn't draft him, and a player and agent who are eager for a change of scenery and a chance to prove that Hezonja can justify the interest that exists for him elsewhere. The option still exists for Hezonja to re-sign with Orlando. Orlando president Jeff Weltman has been careful about committing future money to the underachieving roster that he inherited, resisting rookie contract extensions for Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon. He has wanted to evaluate the roster this season, and make decisions later on the future of the group.
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July 27, 2021 | 3:09 pm EDT Update
Nets general manager Sean Marks has every intention of extending all of the Big Three this summer, with free agency officially tipping off Monday at 6 p.m. The question now is, are those three stars – Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving – all on the same page about staying in Brooklyn for the long haul? And with all three of them max players and money not the big factor, what goes into the decision? “(You) like being in that environment, first of all. You enjoy playing the game, that’s the most important thing. I think we all three enjoy playing with each other,” Durant said when asked by the Post after Team USA practice on Tuesday morning. “But that’s a personal thing, and guys are different. I’m sure when the time is right I’m sure we’ll all make the right decision for ourselves.”
The Big Three can all become free agents after the 2021-22 season. But they can also ink long-term extensions this summer that would keep them in Brooklyn through the 2025-26 campaign. Durant – who’ll lead Team USA vs. Iran at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday – was asked by the Post what he specifically would look for in making his call. “Just being in a great environment and being around teammates that enjoy the game,” said Durant. “Keep growing individually. That’s the most important thing; how we’re growing individually. Definitely how we come together as a team. I enjoy seeing my teammates get better; I enjoy getting better and have an environment that encourages that every single day.”
So while Cunningham may share traits with Magic and Bird, the view of him as a can’t-miss prospect is much easier to process because of current-day players like Jokic—and, in particular, Luka Doncic. In broad strokes, Cunningham and Doncic may well be geminis of a very specific playmaking archetype. It’s rare to see perimeter players leverage their size, strength, and stride to create space in the way that both players seem innately aware and capable of. “As prospects, I do think Cade has a pretty similar baseline in terms of the vision and the way he sees the court, the way he processes how everyone is moving,” Zaucha said.
One watches Cunningham expecting a beeline to the right decision; one watches Doncic expecting the seas to magically part, showing another way. But the stylistic difference may not have much effect on substance. “I wonder if there really is a gap in their creativity—the way they manipulate defenders, especially—or if it’s some sort of aesthetic bias at play,” Zaucha said. “Because Luka loves to make those creative decisions, and then sell it with a behind-the-back pass or some wild delivery that the defense doesn’t expect. Whereas I think Cade—from a decision-making perspective, I think Cade solves problems in creative ways, he just doesn’t always make them look creative.”