Mario Hezonja is one of several Knicks players who have found themselves out of the lineup as part of coach David Fizdale’s revolving rotation, but he might be the only one who believes the experience was positive, relays Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com. Hezonja has played his best basketball since being given another chance, averaging 14.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG over the last three games while shooting 57.7% from the field.
“I think that stuff when I was out for a couple games really opened my mind even more about the game of basketball. It really benefited me,” Hezonja said. “It wasn’t really messing with my rhythm or any of that stuff.”
It’s still not clear if Hezonja is in the organization’s long-term plans after signing a one-year, $6.5MM deal last summer. However, he told reporters Thursday that he knows how the situation will play out and loves playing for the Knicks.
“This coaching staff, I wish I had them in my rookie year,” he said. “I’m not saying anything about what I had. It was just rough and unfortunate situation what happened to me. I wish they were my coaching staff in my rookie year. We’d be talking a different story right now. Yeah, I’m happy to be around them. …This is not a typical BS talk. ‘I’m only thinking about this, I don’t know what it’s gonna be.’ I know. This is it. I love this. I want to be in New York.”
There’s more Knicks news to pass along:
- It’s not a surprise considering the prognosis for his recovery from an ACL injury, but Kristaps Porzingis has officially passed the point where he could meet starter criteria for his upcoming restricted free agency, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That means the qualifying offer the Knicks will have to make drops from $7.5MM to $4.5MM. His cap hold will be $17.1MM and he will qualify for a $158MM contract over five years with a starting salary set at $27.25MM.
- Trey Burke is an obvious trade candidate given his expiring contract and his place on the team, but he tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that he tries to avoid thoughts of the upcoming deadline. Burke is already well traveled at age 26, being with his third team in six seasons, and is only seeing regular minutes because of an injury to Frank Ntilikina. “It’s something I look at as fool’s gold. It’s an illusion,” Burke said. “You can always put yourself in a playoff-team situation. What would it be like if I was with the Lakers? Or with Golden State? You can always do that as a player. It’s not reality until it happens.”
- Several teams have already identified Noah Vonleh as a possible free agent target, a source tells ESPN’s Ian Begley.