Hezonja has shown the early Magic

VIDEO: Magic rookie Mario Hezonja throws one down.

ORLANDO, Fla. — As a storybook tale, the ending to his first game would have been labeled too trite and predictable if it didn’t actually happen.

Mario Hezonja gathered in a pass from teammate Devyn Marble in the final seconds of overtime and drilled a sweeter-than-honey 3-pointer to win.

The 6-7 swingman was right back on the highlight reel in his second game. Exploding from the starting blocks out on the left wing, Hezonja zipped past a would-be defender, gave a nifty little hesitation move as he cleared the free-throw line and then lifted off like one of those rockets they used to launch regularly from down the road at Cape Canaveral, throwing down a one-armed thunderbolt dunk just as he was smacked in the face by OKC’s Richard Solomon.

For a start to an NBA career, it was, well, Magic, as the No. 5 pick in the draft by Orlando delivered much of what had been advertised, much of it by him.

The 20-year-old from Croatian has been called by some the cockiest member of the NBA Draft class of 2015. But you know what they say about it not being bragging when you can back it up.

In two games for the Magic Blue team, Hezonja averaged 13 points and showed the intensely competitive streak that has the franchise so excited. While he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well — 9-for-24 overall and 4-for-14 on 3-pointers — Hezonja was fully engaged in every possession at both ends of the floor.

“He doesn’t back down from physical play,” said Magic assistant coach Monte Mathis. “He’ll dive on the floor. He’ll do all those hard-nosed things.”

It is those fiery, gritty traits that have the Magic so high on what Hezonja can do to help spark a young lineup even as he’s getting an NBA baptism himself. For one, he isn’t your typical rookie, having already played at a high level for Barcelona of the Spanish Liga ACB last season.

“He’s been a pro since he was, like, 11,” said Magic teammate Aaron Gordon. “That’s what I’ve wanted in a teammate, somebody like that. And he’s ready to roll with this.”

His full schedule in Europe will likely curtail Hezonja’s further play in Orlando, but that didn’t stop him making a big impression on the Magic in such a short time.

Consider that he completed his buyout from Barcelona on Monday of last week, flew to Orlando, met his new teammates and was on the court with them for his first practice in the space of 72 hours. Then two days later, he had the gumption to take and the ability to make the last-second shot.

Hezonja is far from happy about the way he’s shot the ball, is clearly upset when he makes a mistake on a defensive assignment or winds up in the wrong spot on offense. He knows he’s learning, but he wants the process to be faster. He didn’t come to ease his way into the NBA and that’s another one of the attributes that attracted the Magic.

“For him to just go out there and compete the way he’s doing, I think he’s doing a hell of a job,” said Magic assistant Adrian Griffin. “I think he’s going to continue to improve. He’s still learning the sets. He’s still learning our defensive schemes. But you have to be blind to not see his talent.”

16 Comments

  1. Tom says:

    Somewhere… Drazen is proud and smiling.

  2. Kal says:

    prepare for Peja Stojakavic 2.0 … i like the sounds of this kid..

  3. Srboja says:

    Good luck!
    Ma kakav Hezonja, nema od ustase nista, samo pokusaj. Da vredi nesto, osvojio bih bar spansku ligu. Real ih ubio.

  4. LaVar Henry says:

    CroCeltsFan – Saric slipped because he is staying in Europe. Most players like that go in the 2nd round. So I would say that Saric was picked pretty high. The Magic know about euro players not coming to the states. They are will waiting on Fran. (11th pick)

  5. Hypothesis says:

    With his “apparent” work ethic coming from word of mouth of his teammates he should be a solid player for years to come, but if your shooting a low percent from the field in the summer league, it’s not going to improve when the regular season starts. Magic still have a chance to compete for a playoff spot this year regardless.

  6. Vexum says:

    Saric and Hezonja are a bit different players, Saric much more involved in playmaking, and not so flashy dunking oriented. both will be great in NBA.

  7. hackajordan says:

    GO HEZONJA. JEBI IM KEVU AMERICKU

  8. Chuck says:

    Thanks for the update. You could glean a little from the Euro videos that he is the whole package but he immediately stands out in the Summer League when the games are very disjointed. I have the distinct sense that he will be one of the three or four stars, maybe more, that will come out of this draft and that the Sixers and Zknicks will really regret taking their picks ahead of him. Okafor is going to be disappointing.

  9. CroCeltsFan says:

    he’s J.R. Smith with a worse attitude(yep, that’s a real thing)… if you think he’s good, wait till you see Šarić, now that’s a baller… how do I know? played against them both in junior levels(AAU), even guarded Hezonja a lot and he still hasn’t changed… just jacks up shot after shot, though he’s a better shooter than he was then so some stuff does go in… guess bad shot selection is considered a lottery attribute nowadays… just sayin’ cause Šarić was picked 12th!! 12TH!!!! and he’ll be a perennial All-Star… I know it doesn’t mean much but he’s the best player I ever saw and I’ve seen my fair share of pro ball watching Cibona over the years, the dude’s unreal, never saw anyone able to see the game like he does,

    • luzwei says:

      Frende, hajd nemoj biti debil. Hezonja je ocigledno talentiran momak i dobar igrac. To koliko ce biti dobar i napredovati iskljucivo ovisi o njemu. Svaki suter je kurcevit. To sto je Mario kurcevit je trenutno vise prednost nego nedostatak. I bolje da je kurcevit pa neka padne na facu i digne se iz toga nego da se povuce u sebe i nikad se ne izvuce. A to sto je Saric bio izabran 12. je iskljucivo zbog toga jer je prije drafta potpisao ugovor u Turskoj i nitko nije htio dati visoki lottery pick za njega. Haj prvo malo predznanja o materiji prije nego dodjes lupati na neki internet medij. LP

    • MaKakavSaric says:

      Saric wont be a nba all.star because he’s not as confident as hezonja….and he’s too calm and quiet to empose himself in the nba….role player for life

    • CroNbaFan says:

      2 years ago yes,now no chance.. Hezonja has improved a lot in Barcelona and Dario failed whit playing in Turkey. I hoped he will come this season but i think next season will be to late for him. Mario will be a all star in 3 years.

    • alx says:

      I think your hate on Mario is somehow personal. With all due respect to Dario (he’s a great player, best wishes for him) the reason why he’s not as promising as Hezonja is that he does not have this next level athleticism Mario has. I am extremely excited with Hezonja because he has a Kobe mentality, great shooting stroke and a NBA level explosiveness. He may be the most explosive international guard EVER. I wish him all the best, his ceiling is unlimited. Nonetheless I see Saric only as a good not great player. Cheers

    • Skunkor says:

      Saric has a worse attitude than Hezonja (who has improved a lot). Saric could be one of the best all time european player but he’s got the worts competitive attitude I’ve ever seen, He just disconnects from the game and makes you think he cannot play basketball at all.

    • crofan says:

      There is 0% chance of Saric being an All star… He will be great in Europe, but no chance he makes any serious contribution in the NBA…
      Hezonja on the other hand, could be special in the NBA.

      And yeah, i am also Croatian… Bender > Hezonja >> Saric.

    • luzwei says:

      yes. he’s a bum. a party boy in the making eager to go with Rhianna. Rolleyes, legendo.