In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some basketball players have faced difficult career decisions. That includes players with ties to the New York Knicks like Mario Hezonja and Mindaugas Kuzminskas.
In general, the players vacated their positions with Russian clubs, which were banned from participating in the EuroLeague and EuroCup; Similarly, FIBA has also suspended Russian teams from competing internationally. But not everyone is leaving the country, although they are facing pressure to do so.
For his part, Hezonja was elected to stay with VTB United League’s UNICS Kazan and he has gone on to have a stellar campaign for the club. In 43 appearances in all competitions this season, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals.
However, staying in Russia is not the only controversial thing the Croats have done recently. Just this week, the former No. 5’s overall pick has shown the right fit to bring the NBA to life.
Hezonja succeeds in the NBA and Knicks
In an interview with Russia’s Tatar-information newspaper, Hezonja set fire to the NBA game, asserting that it was more entertainment than actual sport. Furthermore, he claims he has been disrespected during his time in the league and claims that he is not considering any form of return there.
“There are a lot of things that I don’t like there. I have no desire to return to the NBA, I have seen a lot of things there,” Hezonja said via translation. “I didn’t get as much respect on the pitch as I deserved. Also, in my opinion, basketball in the NBA is more of a performance than a game.”
The Knicks have indeed been pardoned by Hezonja, who seems to credit the organization for helping him grow as a player
“I ended up with the New York Knicks, in a great organization,” he said. “There I learned to take care of my health, my body and my diet. That’s where I created myself as a player. Because it’s a whole different level of self-care, just like preparation is a whole different level.”
Hezonja continues to affirm his belief that he made no mistake coming to the league at the age of 20, despite his bust status.
“Everything that has happened to me has made me who I am, here and now, in the EuroLeague and the VTB League.”
Hezonja appeared in 58 games for the Knicks in the 2018-19 campaign, making 24 appearances and averaging 8.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals. He is perhaps best remembered for his save against LeBron James in a 124-123 win over the Lakers at MSG.
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Kuzminskas looking for a new basketball home
While Hezonja decided to stay in Russia, Kuzminskas was forced to look for work elsewhere. On Friday, April 8, BC Zenit St. Petersburg announced that they had terminated the 32-year-old’s contract after the two sides agreed to part ways.
Zenit has been one of the hardest hit clubs in the VTB League, having lost no less than eight players – including five Americans – amid the war in Ukraine.
Kuzminskas has appeared in 32 games across all competitions with the club, averaging 5.6 points and 1.9 rebounds while connecting with 35.8% of his trio this season. . The Lithuania international played two seasons with New York from 2016 to ’17, winning 6.2 points and £1.8 per competition.
https://heavy.com/sports/new-york-knicks/mario-hezonja-shreds-nba/ Former Knick Mario Hezonja brought the NBA to Blast