NBA Rumor: Mario Hezonja Free Agency

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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.

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.

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.’’

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.
4 years ago via ESPN

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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