The Orlando Magic fell way behind the Detroit Pistons Sunday afternoon, in no small part because instead of Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier they had to start Shelvin Mack and Mario Hezonja. I know—you are scratching your head at how either Hezonja or Mack could possibly start in place of Gordon, a power forward. Magic coach Frank Vogel is working with the dregs of the dregs, man.
Almost nothing that happens in an NBA game after one team takes a 24-point lead much matters, but the Magic did rip off a 19-point run in the fourth quarter to briefly make it a five-point game, and that is just enough of a pretext to appreciate draft hype cautionary tale Hezonja going off for 28 points, in a real live NBA game!
(A side note: imagine sitting through a blowout over a Gordon-less Magic team in the vast, echoing emptiness of Detroit’s new arena. No one deserves that shit.)
Probably you will see the moon grow arms and legs and dance a happy jig in the night sky before you ever see Hezonja put together this kind of performance in anything like a legitimately competitive NBA game, let alone a Magic win. Still, it’s nice to be reminded that there’s some honest-to-God basketball talent behind all of Hezonja’s shrugging indifference. A couple steals, an extra pass or two, a push in transition, and a bulging crapload of above-the-break threes. Once upon a time, people were really excited about this guy.
This is almost certainly Hezonja’s final season in the NBA. The Magic—as talent poor an NBA outfit as there is—declined the final option year on Hezonja’s rookie contract, making him an unrestricted free agent after this season. Maybe some teams will be willing to sniff around his potential, but salary cap space will be tight once again, and Hezonja will be able to make more money, and over a longer contract, back in Europe, where he has an actual track record of success.
Thanks for the memories, Mario!