Ex-Lottery Pick Says Knicks Move Was ‘Wrong Decision’

Ex-Knicks player Mario Hezonja

Getty Mario Hezonja #8 formerly of the New York Knicks scores on a layup during a 119-112 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 04, 2019.

Former lottery pick Mario Hezonja regretted joining the New York Knicks in 2018 after spending his first three seasons with the Orlando Magic.

Hezonja, who just won the Euroleague title last year, revealed this in an interview with Croatian outlet Jutarnji List on February 28.

“It’s all good, but I made a big mistake by choosing the Knicks,” Hezonja said. “I was 24 years old, and it was a retirement move, that signing where you go at the end of your career, and not with a lot of energy and desire that I had.”

The No. 5 pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Hezonja claimed he fell for the former Knicks regime’s sweet words.

“I heard about big plans, about how it should be, that they did wrong with me in Orlando, that they didn’t let me play, “Hezonja said. “And I accepted, but it turned out that we were a kindergarten and that was not a good situation for anyone. The boys broke up, I guess I was the last one left who hoped for something. It was not easy, although the coaches helped me. However, when you are on a losing streak, they attach the label that you are [not] interested in winning, that you are this way and that way.”

Finger-Pointing in New York

After signing a one-year deal worth $6.5 million with the Knicks, Hezonja joined a very young Knicks team under head coach David Fizdale, whom the Memphis Grizzlies fired the previous season after his highly-publicized fourth-quarter benching of Marc Gasol.

Things got worse in New York for Fizdale as the Knicks slumped to a league-worst 17-65 record as former franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis demanded a trade.

With Porzingis getting traded to the Dallas Mavericks that year, the spotlight turned to Hezonja.

“They started pointing fingers at me, and this feeling, a great pressure, was created,” Hezonja said. “I’ve never been the type to stress about it, but it’s become something around [then]. The way I am, I started questioning myself, thinking [about] where my fault lies because, in such circumstances, you cannot be happy.”

Hezonja averaged 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 58 games for the Knicks.

‘Glad to Be Back in Europe’

Hezonja, though, had some high points in his brief stint with the Knicks.

His game-winning block against LeBron James in a 124–123 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on March 17, 2019, is on top of that list followed by his first career triple-double in April and a career-high 30 points in a 113–110 win over the Washington Wizards on April 7, 2019.

“I looked for reasons within myself, but I couldn’t find anything,” Hezonja said. “I couldn’t talk about it publicly because everyone would say, ‘Look at this guy, he doesn’t see any problem in himself. It’s never his fault.’ However, I did not find answers to the questions of whether someone who plays is better than me, whether I am bad, and whether I am not training enough,” he explained.

Everything I did, I tried to do perfectly, but there was that label. [Moving to] the Knicks was the wrong decision. The story when I was coming there was that I was practically a future All-Star, not that I wouldn’t play [at all]. And I’m glad at the end of the day to be back in Europe.”

Now 29, Hezonja is coming off a Euroleague title in 2023 with Real Madrid FC.


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