The Trail Blazers’ upcoming season will feature a roster loaded with fresh faces. Among those faces: 24-year-old forward Mario Hezonja. The former Magic lottery pick signed a low-risk deal with the Blazers this summer and is looking to live up to his draft-night billing.
According to The Athletic’s Jason Quick, Hezonja has all the tools to thrive under coach Terry Stotts. On Friday, Quick delivered an optimistic prediction in response to a Hezonja-specific question. After listing the players that had career years with the Blazers, he explained that Hezonja’s attitude and Portland’s established staff are a perfect pairing.
Players flourish under Stotts in part because his system is rooted in trust and freedom, and in part because he and his staff put so much time into player development. In other words, when players come to Portland, they are trusted to play the right way — make the extra pass, take the right shot — and as a result, they play more freely, and have more fun. It helps, too, that this is a place where players stay long after practice and hone their skills, either with one-on-one coaching or in playful, group competitions. If you are not staying after practice to work on your game, you stick out.
Hezonja appeared in 58 games (24 starts) for the Knicks last season. During that stretch he averaged 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
You can read Quick’s full Q&A at The Athletic (subscription required).