Mario Hezonja chose the New York Knicks for a multitude of reasons, but his relationship with general manager Scott Perry was crucial.
The New York Knicks have committed to a youth movement that the front office hopes will address the need to create a more modern system on both ends of the floor. With length and athleticism available at all five positions, New York has created the opportunity for supreme versatility.
One of the players who projects to be able to help the Knicks in that regard is former Orlando Magic forward Mario Hezonja.
Hezonja, a former top-five draft pick, was New York’s big-name signing in free agency. He agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million, and has expressed interest in remaining with the orange and blue on a long-term deal.
According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Hezonja’s decision to sign with the Knicks was facilitated by his relationship with general manager Scott Perry.
"“It felt like family right away,’’ Hezonja said. “He was through good and bad with me he always stuck with me. He was pulling me on the side and talking to me. My role and his role grew bigger. I feel I have a father in the front office and will always look out for me.”"
Forging relationships with players is a job for the coaching staff, but the fact that Perry is trusted is a promising sign for the future.
For those unfamiliar, Perry was a member of Orlando’s front office when Hezonja was drafted in 2015. He’s been an advocate for the Croatian forward, expressing the belief that there’s still untapped potential worth exploring.
Hezonja is rewarding the faith that Perry has placed in him by giving the Knicks a cost-efficient season to determine if he has a place in the long-term rebuild.
A 23-year-old combo forward who has the raw ability to develop into a high-level offensive player, Hezonja certainly fits the bill of what New York is searching for.
Hezonja, who stands at 6’8″ with a 6’10” wingspan, is coming off of the best season of his three-year NBA career. He set career-highs in points (15.7), rebounds (6.1), steals (1.8), blocks (0.7), and three-point field goals made (2.0) per 36 minutes.
The hope in New York is that Hezonja can build upon that success and take another significant step towards realizing his potential.
It’s general manager Scott Perry who gave the New York Knicks the advantage in the pursuit of the opportunity to help Mario Hezonja do so.