The New York Knicks have signed Mario Heznoja to a one-year contract worth $6.5 million. It was reportedly head coach David Fizdale who closed the deal.
The New York Knicks have made it known that the 2018 period of free agency will be somewhat uneventful. Players will be signed to short-term deals that will enable the Knicks to clear cap space for a max-level talent in 2019.
A deal that could have long-term ramifications, however, is the recent signing of former Orlando Magic forward Mario Hezonja.
Hezonja recently signed a one-year deal worth $6.5 million with the Knicks. The 23-year-old is being provided with an opportunity to build something sustainable in New York by proving that his improvement in 2017-18 was a sign of things to come.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ian Begley of ESPN, the reason that Hezonja chose the Knicks over the multiple offers he received from other teams was the influence of David Fizdale.
"The Knicks beat several teams — including Portland, Sacramento and Memphis — because of Hezonja’s belief in coach David Fizdale and confidence that he can earn a significant role on the court for New York."
Adding Hezonja to the rotation is a significant move, but the biggest takeaway of all may be that Fizdale is already making his mark in free agency.
Hezonja may not have been the biggest name on the open market, but he had suitors with genuine interest. He received offers from the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, and Sacramento Kings, yet chose to sign a one-year deal with a team that refused to budge on its proposed one-year deal.
The reason Hezonja ultimately chose to play for the Knicks was reportedly Fizdale—and a tweet that he posted later that night seemed to confirm as much.
While Hezonja may not be an All-Star, this is the first step in Fizdale helping the Knicks reemerge as a desirable free agency destination.
Come 2019, All-Stars such as Kevin Durant, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Love, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker will all be eligible to hit the open market. The likes of Patrick Beverley, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, Terry Rozier, and Nikola Vucevic could also be available.
Signing Hezonja may not guarantee that any of those players will come to New York, but it certainly implies that Fizdale can indeed connect with the modern athlete.
Thankfully for the New York Knicks, the David Fizdale Effect is already being felt in his first offseason at the helm.