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.