Posts Tagged ‘Devyn Marble’

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.”