Mario Hezonja

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Hezonja, P. Gasol, All-Star Bonuses

Team USA won two games in convincing fashion over the weekend, defeating the Bahamas and Mexico in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament, according to an Associated Press story. The team, which advances to the September 2022 tourney, featured familiar names such as Joe Johnson, Brandon Bass and Isaiah Thomas, who was hoping to use the event to boost his chances for an NBA comeback.

Thomas, who hasn’t played competitively since being traded to the Clippers and waived last February, scored 19 points in Friday’s game and nine on Saturday.

“The world knows I’ve got what it takes. So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy,” he said. “My skill didn’t go anywhere, it was just about getting a hundred percent healthy, which I am right now.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Mario Hezonja, who was in training camp with the Grizzlies, has reached a deal to play for Panathinaikos in Greece, writes Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The new contract will cover the rest of the season with an option for next year. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja played for the Magic, Knicks and Trail Blazers in five NBA seasons. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 53 games with Portland last year.
  • Veteran center Pau Gasol denied rumors over the weekend that he’s close to signing with Barcelona, but Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo hasn’t given up hopes of seeing him play again, relays Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. “It’s a rumor, obviously we hope to see Pau on a basketball court again,” said Scariolo, an assistant coach for the Raptors. “Our desire is to see him still play at the top level and we will keep our fingers crossed.”
  • With the All-Star reserves set to be announced Tuesday, ESPN’s Bobby Marks takes a look at the five players whose contracts include bonuses for making the team. The largest, at $1.3MM, belongs to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, who Marks believes is virtually certain to be selected. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with a $1MM bonus, also seems like a sure thing. The PacersDomantas Sabonis ($1MM bonus) and the KnicksJulius Randle ($945K) face more difficulty because of the competition in the Eastern frontcourt. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who has been to six straight All-Star Games, would earn a $500K bonus for making it again, but he appears to have little chance of being chosen.

Grizzlies Waive Mario Hezonja, Sign Ahmad Caver

1:14pm: The Grizzlies have officially waived Hezonja, the team confirmed in a press release. Additionally, Memphis announced that it has signed free agent guard Ahmad Caver to fill the newly-opened roster spot.

Terms of Caver’s deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s likely an Exhibit 10 contract designed to get him a $50K bonus if he plays for the Memphis Hustle in the G League again this season, as he did last year.


12:50pm: The Grizzlies are waiving veteran forward Mario Hezonja, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Hezonja, 25, averaged 4.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG on .422/.308/.814 shooting in 53 games (16.4 MPG) for Portland last season. After he exercised his minimum-salary player option for 2020/21, he was sent to Memphis in a three-team trade that saw the Trail Blazers acquire Enes Kanter.

The Grizzlies were carrying 17 players with guaranteed contracts into training camp, leaving Hezonja and Marko Guduric as the likely odd men out for the regular season. Neither player was in camp with the club.

Hezonja hasn’t developed into a reliable and productive rotation player since being selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, but being cut by the Grizzlies doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play in the NBA at all this season. According to Charania, multiple teams are expected to express interest in the Croatian once he clears waivers and training camp ends.

Hezonja, Guduric Won’t Be In Camp With Grizzlies

Veteran forward Mario Hezonja and guard Marko Guduric won’t be in training camp with the Grizzlies, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian.

Memphis is currently carrying 17 players on guaranteed contracts and must cut that number down to 15 before the regular season begins later this month. Herrington, who previously identified Hezonja and Guduric as the probable odd men out, says this is further confirmation that they’re the favorites to be waived if the Grizzlies don’t make a trade or two to trim the roster in the next couple weeks.

Hezonja, 25, averaged 4.8 PPG and 3.5 RPG on .422/.308/.814 shooting in 53 games (16.4 MPG) for Portland last season. After he exercised his minimum-salary player option for 2020/21, he was sent to Memphis in a three-team trade that saw the Trail Blazers acquire Enes Kanter.

As for Guduric, he signed a two-year, $5.4MM contract with the Grizzles in 2019. However, he fell out of the club’s rotation early last season and ended up just averaging 11.0 minutes per contest in 44 games. The Serbian shooting guard scored 3.9 PPG on .395/.301/.923 shooting.

As Herrington notes (via Twitter), assuming the Grizzlies release both Hezonja and Guduric, they won’t have to stretch either player’s guaranteed salary across three seasons in order to stay out of luxury-tax territory. However, the team could still decide to stretch one or both cap hits to create a little extra flexibility below the tax threshold.

Southwest Rumors: Harden, Westbrook, Grizzlies, Porzingis, More

The Rockets still expect to begin the season with former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook on their roster, despite a handful of November trade rumors, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on Complex’s Load Management podcast.

Although there’s no momentum toward a trade involving either player, Charania dropped a couple interesting tidbits during his podcast discussion about the Rockets stars, mentioning that the Warriors “made a call” about Harden and that the Cavaliers talked to Houston about Westbrook. Based on Charania’s comments, it doesn’t sound like any traction was gained in either case.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Grizzlies are currently carrying 17 players on guaranteed contracts, meaning a couple of those players will have to be traded or released before the start of the regular season. Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian suggests that Mario Hezonja and Marko Guduric appear to be the most likely odd men out.
  • Confirming a previous report, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reiterated today that Kristaps Porzingis (knee) won’t play until at least January, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Carlisle did say that Porzingis’ rehab is going well and that the big man is doing “light court work.”
  • Mavericks rookie guard Tyrell Terry will receive $4.6MM in guaranteed money on his four-year contract, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. While we don’t know the exact terms of Terry’s deal, it sounds like his first three seasons will be guaranteed.
  • The three-year, minimum-salary contract that second-rounder Tre Jones signed with the Spurs is fully guaranteed for the first two years, as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports details (via Twitter).

Trail Blazers Acquire Enes Kanter From Celtics

10:21pm: The trade is now official, according to press release from the Celtics and Grizzlies.

The deal will send Kanter to Portland, Hezonja and the rights to Bane to Memphis, and two future second-round picks to Boston. The Grizzlies will also send cash to Portland in the move.

One of the two second-rounders headed from Memphis to Boston is the Grizzlies’ own 2025 pick. The other will be the more favorable of the following:

  • Houston’s 2023 second-rounder.
  • The less favorable of Memphis’ and Dallas’ 2023 second-rounders.

2:46pm: The Trail Blazers are reuniting with veteran center Enes Kanter, having reached a deal to acquire him from the Celtics, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

As Wojnarowski explains, the deal will be folded into the draft-night agreement between the Celtics and Grizzlies that saw Memphis land the No. 30 pick and select TCU’s Desmond Bane. The Grizzlies will receive Mario Hezonja from Portland in the swap, while the Celtics will get a future draft consideration from Memphis.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Offseason Trades]

Kanter, 28, enjoyed a brief, productive stint in Portland to finish the 2018/19 season, averaging 11.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG in 16 playoff games that year as the team made it to the Western Conference Finals. The two sides were unable to come to an agreement in free agency a year ago, resulting in Kanter signing with the Celtics. A year later, he’s back with the Blazers.

The move will give Portland a veteran backup for starting center Jusuf Nurkic and is probably a strong signal that free agent big man Hassan Whiteside isn’t coming back.

The Celtics, meanwhile, having already traded away Vincent Poirier this week, have created a little extra cap and roster flexibility in advance of free agency, though they’ll need to add a frontcourt player or two to make up for losing a pair of centers.

Hezonja and Kanter both exercised player options for 2020/21 earlier this week, so they’re on expiring contracts. Hezonja will earn $1.98MM, while Kanter will make just over $5MM. The Grizzlies will take on Hezonja using one of their trade exceptions and Portland will do the same for Kanter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers’ Mario Hezonja Opting In For 2020/21

Trail Blazers swingman Mario Hezonja will pick up his player option, opting in for the 2020/21 season, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). As a result, Hezonja will forgo free agency until 2021 and will lock in a $1,977,011 guaranteed salary with Portland for the upcoming season.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2020/21]

Hezonja, 25, averaged a career-worst 4.8 PPG in a part-time role for the Blazers in 2019/20. In 53 games (16.4 MPG), he chipped in 3.5 RPG and shot just 42.2% from the field, including 30.8% on three-pointers.

Although he was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja has failed to develop into a reliable rotation player in Orlando, New York, or Portland since entering the league. It’s not even a certainty he would have received minimum-salary offers if he had opted for free agency this fall, so his decision to exercise his option comes as no surprise — we’ll see if he sticks with the Blazers or gets included in a trade before the 2021 deadline.

Accounting for Hezonja’s modest salary doesn’t impact the Blazers’ cap outlook in any real way. Portland projects to be an over-the-cap team this offseason.

Rodney Hood, who is coming off an Achilles tear, is the other Blazer who holds a player option for 2020/21. The expectation is that he’ll pick up his $6MM option.

Batum, DeRozan Among Players With Earlier Option Decision Deadlines

Most veterans who have player options in their contracts for the 2020/21 season will have an October 17 deadline to either exercise or decline that option. That Saturday represents the second-last day of the 2019/20 league year under the NBA’s new calendar, meaning it would coincide in a normal year with June 29, the usual player option decision deadline.

However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, some of the players who have to make option decisions for 2020/21 have slightly earlier deadlines. For instance, if the Spurs don’t make the postseason, DeMar DeRozan will be required to make his decision within seven days of the team’s last game, per Marks.

The full list of player options for ’20/21 can be found on our free agents page, but here are the options which must be exercised or declined before October 17, according to Marks:

The rest of this season’s player option decisions must be made by October 17, a deadline that applies to nearly every team option for 2020/21 as well. The only team options with earlier decision dates are minimum-salary ones for Deonte Burton (Thunder) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Pistons), which are due by October 15, per Marks.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Northwest Division:

Malik Beasley, Timberwolves, 23, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $7.8MM deal in 2016
Beasley turned down an extension offer with the Nuggets last offseason, which looked like a really bad decision when he struggled to get steady playing time on Denver’s deep bench. Freedom came in the form of a trade with the Timberwolves and Beasley quickly seized the opportunity. He averaged 22.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 3.0 APG in his first three games with his new team. Of course, Minnesota made an even bigger deadline deal. The chemistry that Beasley forms with backourt partner D’Angelo Russell will determine how much Minnesota would be willing to fork up to re-sign the restricted free agent.

Jordan McRae, Nuggets, 28, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.65MM deal in 2019
The Nuggets made a series of minor moves prior to the trade deadline. In the short run, the most significant was the acquisition of McRae, who was quietly enjoying a career year with the Wizards. McRae, who also had stints with Cleveland and Phoenix during his NBA career, was averaging 12.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 2.8 APG in 22.8 MPG with Washington. Stats with bad teams can be shrugged off but McRae, who missed some games with hand and ankle injuries, has a chance to show that he can be a second-unit factor for a quality team. The Nuggets possess his Early Bird rights, which increases the possibility of re-signing him if they like what they see.

Andre Roberson, Thunder, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $30MM deal in 2017
It’s sad that Roberson hasn’t been able to resurrect his career after suffering a serious knee injury at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena in January 2018. There have been many stops and starts during the rehab process since he ruptured his left patella tendon but Roberson has never been able to reach the point where he could play again. Oklahoma City was unable to move his expiring contract before the trade deadline. The last update on Roberson was that he was continuing his rehab in Los Angeles but there’s a strong possibility that the one-time lockdown defender has played his last NBA game.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Jazz, 23, PG (Down) – Signed to one-year, $1.74MM deal in 2019
Mudiay, the seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, was signed as a backup to Mike Conley and was playing around 20 MPG until Conley returned from his latest injury. Mudiay hasn’t seen the floor for more than 15 minutes since mid-January and that’s not going to change when Conley suits up. Mudiay posted a career year statistically with the woeful Knicks last season but they didn’t make him a qualifying offer, which thrust him into unrestricted free agency. He can stick around the league for awhile if he’s willing to accept short-term, minimum-salary deals.

Mario Hezonja, Trail Blazers, 24, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.66MM deal in 2019
Hezonja was hoping last summer that the Knicks would re-sign him. The call never came and Hezonja, who started 24 games with New York last season, wound up signing a two-year, minimum-salary contract with Portland. Hezonja, who is currently nursing an ankle injury, was playing regularly but not effectively before the team signed Carmelo Anthony. When he’s gotten opportunities to shoot it, he hasn’t been able to knock them down (38.5% overall, 28.4% from distance). Hezonja holds a $1.978MM player option on his contract for next season and it will be interesting to see if he opts in or chooses to see if another franchise will give him a chance to play regularly.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Hezonja, Dinwiddie, Miller, Barrett

Forward Mario Hezonja wanted to return to the Knicks but they never made him an offer in free agency, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Hezonja wound up taking a two-year, minimum salary deal with the Trail Blazers.

“That free agency was ‘call me and I’m coming back (to the Knicks),'” Hezonja said. “I don’t care (that) there’s a lot of perception people make about playing in New York. But I had never had problems with you guys (media). Media was great always great. Everyone from the front office was great to me. Fans are the best in the world. … I loved every single thing about my entire time out there. It didn’t work out in the summer.”

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie has played so well as the Nets’ starting point guard that coach Kenny Atkinson will have a pleasant dilemma when max player Kyrie Irving returns to action, Brian Lewis the New York Post writes. The Nets are 9-3 with Dinwiddie in the lineup, compared to 4-7 before a shoulder injury sidelined Irving. “It’s a good [situation]. It just adds to our depth and adds to our talent, and I just see it as a good thing,” Atkinson said. “Now I’m thinking about what is that going to look like rotation-wise. What does that look like with Spencer: Start or come off the bench? So those are good problems. I’m excited — our staff is excited — about making that work.”
  • New Knicks coach Mike Miller focused Monday’s two-hour practice on changing the team’s defensive coverage, Berman writes in a separate piece. Miller is looking for more consistent effort from the struggling squad. “We were working on the things that we need to do and really get a good feel, continue to work with our consistency of how we play possession to possession,’” Miller said. “That’s what our focus is. … Let’s lock in these areas where we’ve shown we can be pretty good. Let’s do it for longer stretches.”
  • Knicks rookie RJ Barrett has to adjust a coaching change in the early stages of his career but he’s taking it in stride, Steve Popper of Newsday relays. “This is a business,” Barrett said. “We’re pros. Stuff will happen. We have a whole season to go and move on.”

Northwest Notes: Hezonja, Abrines, Jazz, Tolliver

New Trail Blazers guard Mario Hezonja has apologized to players and employees of the team for choosing to sign with the Knicks last summer instead of Portland, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes.

Hezonja, who was courted by a number of teams last year due to his overall potential and scoring ability, ultimately chose to sign with a New York team that failed to offer him a concrete role. He started in 24 of his 58 games this season, with the team accruing the league’s worst record at 17-65.

“I kind of rushed,” Hezonja said. “But I made my mind up quick; I wanted to experience New York.”

Hezonja reached agreement on a two-year, minimum-salary deal with Portland on the first day of free agency, committing to a franchise that’s focused on competing for an NBA title. He put pen to paper and inked his contract on Wednesday.

“I just have to fit in,” Hezonja said. “This team was in the Western Conference finals. I’m here to help. My individual goal is to push them even further. I want to be on a successful team and surround myself with players better than myself, because that will help me. That will help me be even better and become that top-tier player eventually.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Former Thunder guard Alex Abrines took to social media to discuss the personal issues he’s faced this year, as relayed by Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Abrines left the team in February after three seasons due to these unspecified personal matters. In the video, Abrines also announced his intentions to return to the game of basketball, with the 25-year-old currently an unrestricted free agent.
  • The Jazz — along with the rest of the league — will have a much different feel entering the 2019/20 season, Doug Robinson of The Deseret News writes. Utah will acquire star guard Mike Conley, lose longtime Jazz forward Derrick Favors, and add scoring wing Bojan Bogdanovic, reshaping and improving their roster over the span of a couple weeks.
  • New Trail Blazers forward Anthony Tolliver recalled watching the team’s lack of three-point shooting during the postseason this spring, especially while players such as Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum were double teamed, Jason Quick writes in a separate article for The Athletic. “Watching the playoffs last year, they got double-teamed a lot, and that’s literally how guys like myself can excel,” Tolliver said. “I was like, ‘Wow! I could really help them out.’” Like Hezonja, Tolliver signed his minimum-salary contract with the team on Wednesday.