Mario Hezonja

Mario Hezonja praying for hometown following earthquake in Croatia

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Mario Hezonja praying for hometown following earthquake in Croatia

As Trail Blazers forward Mario Hezonja has been sheltering in place in Portland amid the COVID-19 outbreak, a massive earthquake hit his home city and surrounding towns of Zagreb, Croatia this weekend. 

The Croatian capital was hit by 5.3 magnitude earthquake over the weekend.

“All of this happening in the world and now my city gets hit like this,” Hezonja wrote on his Twitter account.

Luckily, very few people were on the streets when the earthquake struck in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Fallen bricks and stones from Zagreb’s historic buildings crushed parked cars and blocked roadways. There have been reports of one death due to the magnitude of the earthquake.   

The tremor was felt in neighboring Slovenia and southern Austria.

Prior to the earthquake, a lockdown was put in place in Zagreb and elsewhere across Croatia to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Hezonja continued to show love for Croatia throughout the day on his Twitter account.

Trail Blazers react to Nets players testing positive for COVID-19

Trail Blazers react to Nets players testing positive for COVID-19

2:30pm PT Update: Kevin Durant is one of the four Nets players who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Should every single NBA player be tested for COVID-19?

It sounds like the league may need to move in that direction.  

Following Tuesday's reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that four Brooklyn Nets players have tested positive for the virus, other players around the league responded on social media.

According to Shams Charania, Kevin Durant was one of those players.

The remaining players have yet to be identified, but Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted out that if he had stopped tweeting people would assume that he was one of the four.

To which Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum had some fun with:

“Bruh we all assuming it’s you until you confirm or deny,” McCollum wrote.

The two had some fun back-and-forth, as Dinwiddie replied that he was “trying to show solidarity here man. Team spirit and what not.”

And in times like this, making jokes is sometimes all anyone can do to help everyone else get through a difficult time.

We're in this together!

But, Portland’s forward Mario Hezonja had a different reaction and was having a hard time with the news, feeling as though with more players diagnosed the season could be lost.

At this point, the NBA is still looking at returning in mid-June. 

The Trail Blazers were set to play the Nets at the end of this month in Brooklyn. Portland played its first game of the series against the Nets early in the season on Nov. 8, but now other teams that have come in contact with Brooklyn recently are being notified.

Maybe having four teammates test positive could be the breaking point for the NBA to issue tests for all players.

The NBA is currently in the midst of a hiatus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What's next for the NBA remains unknown. 

Mario Hezonja fined for “making inappropriate contact with a game official”

Mario Hezonja fined for “making inappropriate contact with a game official”

Monday night in Orlando was arguably Mario Hezonja’s best game of the season.

It was also his most costly.

In the Blazers 130-107 victory, Hezonja finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

He also finished with the second highest plus/minus on the team with a plus-22, behind just Trevor Ariza’s plus-28.

Hezonja not only got it done on both ends against the Magic, he also made sure to support his teammate CJ McCollum.

McCollum didn’t like the offensive foul call that was charged against him late in the third quarter. He had a few words for referee Kevin Scott. Which earned McCollum a technical.

Enter Hezonja.

It looked as though Hezonja was trying to stop Scott from giving the technical with Hezonja reaching out and grabbed Scott’s arm to stop him from blowing the whistle.

That was a costly move.

Players are not allowed to touch an official like that, thus that earned Hezonja a $25,000 fine from the league.

That fine accounted for 1.4% of his yearly salary.

Did McCollum believe Hezonja was trying to take the tech and save him from getting one?  

“I don’t know. He wasn’t getting that one. I earned that one,” McCollum said with a smile.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts didn’t discuss the technical foul situation following Monday’s game, but he did talk about how happy he was for Hezonja to have a game like he did.

“Mario Hezonja played an excellent game both halves,” Stotts said.  With CJ out, he became more of a playmaker, a facilitator. It was good to see. Mario is capable of playing like that… For us to be competitive that’s going to be important.”

McCollum added, “Rio’s a solid player, he just has to be locked in. I think he was locked in tonight. We put him in a position to succeed. He wasn’t timid, he wasn’t second thinking himself, he made a lot of the right plays.”

Hezonja’s pocket book will now be a little bit thinner, but the 25-year-old is looking to continue making a positive impact as the Blazers continue their playoff push.

Plus, with a leader like McCollum, Hezonja will continue to backup his teammate.

“He’s a player that enjoys playing the game of basketball… He’s not afraid to be talked or be challenged, that’s what I like about him,” McCollum said.

Mario Hezonja in a walking boot after spraining left ankle

Mario Hezonja in a walking boot after spraining left ankle

The depth of the Trail Blazers second unit was already thin heading into Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat with no Anfernee Simons (concussion) or Nassir Little (left ankle sprain) available. 

Then at the 11:14 mark of the second quarter, forward Mario Hezonja left the game with an apparent left ankle injury.

It looked as though Hezonja rolled his ankle under the basket as he was defending Kendrick Nunn.

Hezonja played through the pain for a full trip up and down the court before being subbed out and heading straight to the locker room.

Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr., who picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter, entered the game for Hezonja.

The Trail Blazers announced near the end of the second quarter that Hezonja has suffered a left ankle sprain and would not return. 

After the game, Terry Stotts did not have an update on Hezonja's health status. 

Once in the locker room, reporters observed Hezonja in a walking boot. 

He did not speak with the media. 

The Trail Blazers travel to New Orleans on Tuesday to face the Pelicans and Memphis Wednesday before the All-Star Break. No word on if Hezonja will be on the trip, though it appears unlikely. 

 

How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Hornets tonight at 7:00pm

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How to watch, stream Trail Blazers vs. Hornets tonight at 7:00pm

The Portland Trail Blazers (16-24) are focused on “trying to address the things that they aren’t doing well enough and to find a way and keep battling” as they welcome in the Charlotte Hornets (15-27) Monday night.

Hassan Whiteside (upper respiratory illness) is listed as probable, while Mario Hezonja (low back contusion) is questionable for Monday's game.

Charlotte will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back on Monday night after falling to the Phoenix Suns 100-92. With Sunday's loss, the Hornets fell to 8-14 on the road.

You can watch all the action between the Blazers and Hornets on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

4:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

6:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

6:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Hornets

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

And, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 

QUOTABLE

“I think our experience with getting into tough positions and battling our way out… Just through our togetherness and the culture that we’ve built and how we show up every day and do the work, that’s kind of led us out of it. We keep our minds on the things that we can improve on and we address that. We don’t step around it, and I think in the past, that’s been a big part of us coming out of it… So that’s where we are right now – just trying to address the things that we aren’t doing well enough and not make excuses and just try to find a way and keep battling.” -- Damian Lillard after Saturday’s loss to the Bucks 

Sick and tired, battered and bruised, Trail Blazers end trip with loss

Sick and tired, battered and bruised, Trail Blazers end trip with loss

MINNESOTA – Battered, bruised, sick and tired in their locker room after the game, the Portland Trail Blazers looked as if they’d been in a cage fight – and the cage won.

The Minnesota Timberwolves put a physical 116-102 whipping on them Thursday night, the final bout of a five-game, 10-day road trip that appeared to have gone one game and two days too long for the Trail Blazers.

Mario Hezonja was nursing a sore back from a nasty fall. Anthony Tolliver was icing a sore elbow as a result of another bad fall. Damian Lillard was still working the kinks out of a hyper-extended arm. Anfernee Simons had four stitches taken under his right eye. Hassan Whiteside was taking an IV for an upper-respiratory problem that had already weakened CJ McCollum. And I probably missed someone else… it was that kind of night.

Portland led by as many as eight in the first quarter but then just got clobbered in the second and third quarters. The Wolves won the second quarter 31-13 and the third 41-27.

“The first quarter, we scored the ball well,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “They had nine second-chance points that kept them in the game in the first quarter. In the second quarter, our offense was pretty poor. We didn’t have an assist in the quarter. Didn’t make shots, didn’t pass the ball well. They were able to get out in transition, and it made their offense that much better.”

Then, with a six-point lead going into the second quarter, things went sideways very fast.

“I thought some of our guys looked tired,” Stotts said. “Whether it was the road trip, the last game of the road trip or the illnesses that are going around, I don’t know. It looked like we weren’t able to sustain the energy level after the first quarter.”

But the Timberwolves’ lead was only a dozen at the half and in the NBA, that’s not a big advantage to overcome in two quarters. But the tank was empty, it seemed.

“They came out and hit three threes early,” Stotts said. “When you’re down 12 at the half, those first five minutes of the third quarter are important. You want the lead to get down to single digits instead of ballooning up. They gained the momentum right at the start of the third quarter and all of a sudden, it’s a 20-point game. And that’s pretty deflating.”

And the Trail Blazers seemed powerless to stop it.

“You know, that edge and that energy just wasn’t there,” Damian Lillard said. “It just felt like, overall, we were a little bit tired. We’ve been on the road a long time and we just didn’t have the kind of energy that we needed tonight. Not a great effort by our team.”

Lillard finished with 20, CJ McCollum and Whiteside with 15.

And the sad thing for Portland is that it gets just one day of rest, Friday, before the Milwaukee Bucks arrive Saturday night in Moda Center.

No rest for the weary in the NBA.

Mario Hezonja suffers low back contusion

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Mario Hezonja suffers low back contusion

Per Trail Blazers PR, Blazers forward Mario Hezonja has suffered a low back contusion and is questionable to return to tonight’s game in Minnesota.

Hezonja drove hard to the rim at the 3:55 mark of the first quarter when he was fouled by Timberwolves big man Noah Vonleh. Hezonja got caught in the air and came down hard, falling on his back. 

6:40 pm PT UPDATE: Hezonja retuned to action for just two minutes midway through the third quarter before heading back to the locker room. 

Hezonja has been dealing with back spasms this season. He has played in just four of Portland’s last 10 games.

In those four games, he is averaging 6.3 points on 55.6 percent shooting.

Hezonja has looked comfortable and confident over that stretch as he continues to get healthy.

Before the injury against the Timberwolves, Hezonja scored five points to go along with four rebounds and two assists.

We will update this post when we know more on Hezonja’s injury. 

Blazers get the help they needed from "The Monster" Mario Hezonja

Blazers get the help they needed from "The Monster" Mario Hezonja

It hasn’t been the season many expected for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Injuries have plagued Portland.

Plus, it hasn’t been the season, or the career, Mario Hezonja has hoped for or many had predicted.

The fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft has shown flashes of brilliance and his athleticism is hard to come by; however, he hasn’t been able to be consistent enough to stick in the rotation.

In his first season with the Trail Blazers he has dazzled fans, at times, with his skill, but then in the same game can show lapses on either end that have fans face palming.

Hezonja has the tools, there’s no doubt about that. But, the toolbox doesn't always seem to be the most organized.

He just hasn’t shown prolong comfort or confidence.

But, in his return to the court after missing six previous games with back spasms, he showed his worth as the Trail Blazers cruised to a victory over the Wizards Friday night.  

“It was helpful,” CJ McCollum said of having Hezonja back on the court.

“We don’t have many guys over 6’8”, everybody’s hurt, banged up, so it was nice to have another body, fresh legs. I thought he played well, he brought energy, finished around the basket,” McCollum added.

Damian Lillard, who led the Blazers with 35 points, shared the same feelings as McCollum.  

“With all the injuries that we’re dealing with right now as a team, anytime we can get another guy out there especially with some size, we’ve struggled rebounding the ball and matching up to size, it was good to have him back out there. And, he had a good game, so it was really helpful.”

In the win that snapped Portland’s five-game losing streak, Hezonja was the only one off the bench to score in double figures.

He finished with 10 points on an effective 4-of-7 shooting night in 18 minutes of action.

How did Hezonja’s back feel?

“It wasn’t bad, but it was bugging me a little bit,” Hezonja said.

The Blazers forward mentioned how his back flared up when he was chasing smaller players off the screen and he twisted his hip, which then forced him to head back to the bench in the second half.

However, don’t expect Hezonja to miss more time.

“Hell no. I’m going to do treatment right now, and I come back, tomorrow treatment again, and then the following day treatment again and then Miami,” Hezonja told our Dwight Jaynes.  

“It ain’t that bad. I’m a monster, man. Come on,” Hezonja chuckled.

The fourth-year player described being back on the court as “great, especially to help to win… It felt great.”

Now as Hezonja shakes off the rust and continues to develop his confidence with this team, he believes his teammates still need to continue their faith in him as a big man.

“We have so many injured guys… I come in and I was at the point to start, and then I was at the four, and next thing you know I’m at the five again.”

Rio also explained that he believes they are getting better as a team with the various forwards rotating through to play the five.

And, despite Trail Blazers head coach discussing Jusuf Nurkic’s progress pregame in Washington, Nurk is not coming back in the next few games, so for now, Hezonja and his teammates will all need to get comfortable with him being one of their of the biggest guys out on the court.  

But, hey... this self-proclaimed monster is eager to help down low.

Practice? We're talking about practice? Blazers are, after snapping loss streak

Practice? We're talking about practice? Blazers are, after snapping loss streak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trail Blazers took advantage of a rare opportunity Thursday afternoon. And it paid off Friday night in a 122-103 win over the Washington Wizards that snapped a five-game losting streak.

What’s becoming a rarity for them – an actual, full-fledged practice – took place Thursday and the team seemed to believe it helped against what was an outmanned Wizards squad. In the NBA, with so many games and so much travel, most teams choose to rest on off-days and go through light shooting drills other days. There is video work done, too, but to tape up, get out on the floor and actually go through a real practice is not a common thing during the season.

“It was nice,” said CJ McCollum, who had 24 points and six assists for the Trail Blazers. “At first, you think, oh, practice... tape… but once you get out there, you have fun, you try to get things done… work on our shell, work on our traps, tighten up our zone and then get a little more comfortable with some of our offensive plays. We haven’t had a practice since we played against the Phoenix Suns (Dec. 16).

“Looking at one practice every month, month and a half -- so you have to really take advantage of it.

“Yesterday was a good one. Better than what we’ve done in a long time. We got a lot accomplished.”

Damian Lillard, who scored 35, including 13 in the final quarter to snuff out any dreams of a Wiz comeback, agreed.

“It was good to get a practice in yesterday and come out and get a win on the road,” Lillard said. “With the way the season is, we have a game every other day, pretty much, it’s important to us to rest and take care of our bodies. It’s not the smartest thing to always be on the practice floor, using that energy and taking that extra pounding. You don’t get to practice that much. But the fact was, we were able to get a good one in. We taped up, went over some stuff live. Sometimes it’s good for your rhythm and good for you, especially coming off the game like we had in New York, to get out there and do some stuff and tighten up.”

Coach Terry Stotts was pleased with his team’s defense, which held the Wizards to 26-68 shooting over the final three quarters.

“I thought we had some really good possessions where we got locked in and at least made it tough for them,” he said.

And he thought getting a practice in was helpful to that end.

“I think it probably helped more from a mentality standpoint,” Stotts said. “It was kind of a review and a refresher of some of our defensive things, but from a team mentality standpoint, I thought it helped.”

The Wizards were without Bradley Beal (out with a leg injury) and have been without John Wall (Achilles) all season, as well as several other injuries to key players that has left them as banged up as the Trail Blazers. Then, a minute and a half into the game, Isaiah Thomas was involved in a struggle that led to a jump ball, made contact with a referee and was ejected from the contest.

Hassan Whiteside had another big game, getting what is believed to be the league’s first 20-20 game of 2020, with 23 points and 21 rebounds to go with five blocked shots.

And the game also marked the return to the lineup of Mario Hezonja, who had missed six games in a row with back spasms, yet played 17:41 made 4 of his 7 shots and scored 10 points. He completed a couple of spin moves at the basket and appeared energized. It almost looked like the full Mario Hezonja Experience.

But not so fast.

"It's not full because I played without my back," he said. "It was half-Mario -- Mini-Mario.

"Honestly. (the back) was bad. We had lost a couple in a row and we aren't supposed to be losing in January. It's not about me, it's about the team. I can't stand around waiting for it to get good -- that's not why they brought me in."

Is he expecting to miss more games?

"Hell, no!" he said. "I'm a monster, man."

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers take care of business late against Wizards

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Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers take care of business late against Wizards

The Trail Blazers snapped a five-game losing streak Friday night in what turned out to be a crazy game and a complete shootout.

Within the first 90 seconds of the first quarter, a Wizards player was kicked out of the game.

That’s how the Trail Blazers and Wizards tipped off Friday’s contest.

The Wizards started two players who on their roster with injury exception contracts in Johnathan Williams and Gary Payton II. That’s how depleted Washington’s roster is at this point in the season.

Neither the Blazers or Wizards had more than a single digit lead throughout the first half. 

But Portland clamped down in the second half and held off Washington's push down the stretch.  
FINAL BOX SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS 122, WIZARDS 103

Here are three quick takeaways from Friday’s win:

1. Wizards depth got even worse real quick

Washington has been dealing with several injuries as of late. The Wizards started Isaiah Thomas, Gary Payton II, Troy Brown, Johnathan Williams and Ian Mahinmi.

However at the 10:32 mark of the first quarter, Thomas made contact with a referee. It may have been accidental, but he was ejected.

Ish Smith subbed in for Thomas. Smith then rattled off 10 first quarter points.  Smith also took advantage of Portland on transition.

2.  Blazers take it at young Wizards down low, The Whiteside Impact

Four Trail Blazers were in double figures by halftime. The scoring tear began with Portland’s team captain Damian Lillard.

Lillard was making the Wizards pay at the rim, especially early on. The Blazers scored 36 points in the paint through the first two quarters and shot 56.5 percent from the field as a team, led by Lillard’s 16 points. For the game, Lillard scored 35 points on 10-of-20 shooting.   

Hassan Whiteside made his usual impact in the paint defensively. Whiteside gobbled up rebounds and made sure to alter several shots as the Wizards drove to the hoop. Whiteside finished with 23 points and 21 rebounds. 

3.  Wizards bench kept them in the game

Washington’s bench outscored Portland’s second unit 42-11 in the first half.

Whether it was Jordan McRae, Ish Smith, or Garrison Mathews, the Wizards were getting plenty of production from their second unit guys on the perimeter.

However, the Blazers’ big 3 of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Carmelo Anthony combined for over 70 points to help the Blazers secure the win.

The Wizards crowd showed their appreciation and love for Melo all night long cheering for the 17-year veteran.  

In the final minutes of Friday's game, Lillard looked to determine to get the victory. The Trail Blazers All-Star was not accepting a sixth straight loss. 

Up Next: The Blazers continue their five-game road trip Sunday night against the Miami Heat. The Blazers and Heat will tip-off at 3:00pm PT on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!