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Knicks News: Mario Hezonja Agrees to Contract After 3 Seasons with Magic

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2018

ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 12: Mario Hezonja #8 of the Orlando Magic talks to the media during a press conference on April 12, 2018 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

The New York Knicks and guard Mario Hezonja agreed to a one-year, $6.5 million contract, where he'll look to build on a promising second half of 2017-18.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported the news, which Hezonja confirmed on Twitter:

Mario Hezonja @mariohezonja

Start spreading the news...I want to be a part of it, New York,New York! Very excited to be joining the Knicks and play for coach Fizdale! A dream come true!! #betterhairdaysareahead https://t.co/V7JfOUc9ob

Hezonja, 23, spent his first three NBA seasons with the Orlando Magic. He set career highs with averages of 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

After starting just 11 games in his first two NBA years, the Croatian was in the starting lineup for 30 games in 2017-18 and made massive strides after the All-Star break.

The 6'8" slasher increased his scoring to 11.4 points per game over the season's final two months and drew praise for his massive improvement.

"I'm just so proud of him and we keep reinforcing the positives of his shot selection being far better than it was early in his career," then-Orlando coach Frank Vogel told the Magic's website in February. "The game is slowing down for him. He’s making good basketball plays with his touches and we're reinforcing that (message).

"We're still trying to get him to work hard defensively, but offensively he just has to take the looks that are there. When he doesn't force, he's going to shoot a high percentage and he's shown that over some time now. He's really in a groove now."

Hezonja has been a conscious-less gunner for most of his young NBA career, often at low percentages. Vogel helped him control his aggressive tendencies a bit into more efficient offense, and his massive growth from his second year to his third year suggests the Knicks could wind up getting the best part of his ascent.

The Magic declined a fourth-year option that would have paid Hezonja just $5.2 million in a decision they would likely take back if they could.

Orlando has an entirely new regime now following an offseason housecleaning, so the attachment to Hezonja had dissipated. 

The Knicks should provide Hezonja with an easy opportunity to score coming off the bench. He'll likely slot in behind Tim Hardaway Jr. on the depth chart but should get extended minutes on a New York roster not built to contend right now. 

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