Frank Vogel: Orlando Magic considered sending Mario Hezonja to D-League

Mario Hezonja has had a tough time cracking the Orlando Magic’s rotation. With limited practice time, the team did consider sending him to the D-League.

Frank Vogel told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, among the media assembled in Charlotte for tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, the team had discussions about sending Mario Hezonja to the D-League. The former fifth overall pick has fallen completely out of the rotation and has not been able to contribute much this season.

The full quote from Vogel, via OrlandoMagic.com:

“We’ve thought about it. We will continue to keep an eye on where his role is with this team. It’s not good for anybody to stay out of the rotation for a long time when you have the D-League available. It’s just something that we’ve talked about. But right now, we want him with us.”

The Magic have had a hands-off approach to the D-League. With the team in Erie, the Magic have usually elected to use it for young players who are not getting playing time while they go on extended road trips. Typically the Magic prefer to have their young players practicing and working out with the main roster. They believe they get more playing that tougher competition.

Stephen Zimmerman is in Erie right now as the Magic get through this difficult stretch of the schedule where the Magic were on the road and getting little practice time. This would have been the stretch to send Hezonja to the D-League.

When the Magic’s D-League team is in nearby Kissimmee or Lakeland next year, it is possible the Magic could send a player who is out of the rotation to the D-League for a one-game trip and have them return the next day to be with the main team.

This, of course, is not how the Magic hoped things would go with Hezonja.

Orlando drafted the sharpshooting Croatian with the fifth overall pick in last year’s Draft. They hoped he could be a bit of a microwave and score point sin bunches off the bench while learning to hone his athleticism.

That never materialized. He struggled to break through into Scott Skiles‘ rotation as his defense lagged significantly behind what the team needed as it tried to compete. Even late in the season, it seemed Scott Skiles had trouble trusting Hezonja and letting him play through his mistakes.

Hezonja averaged 6.1 points per game and shot 34.9 percent from beyond the arc in 17.9 minutes per game across 79 games.

Frank Vogel was supposed to give him a little more free reign as a member of the Magic’s rotation. But Hezonja has only struggled more. He has now fallen completely out of the rotation. Thus the thought of giving him some game experience playing in Erie for the Erie BayHawks.

Hezonja is averaging just 3.9 points per game in 11.6 minutes per game across 11 games. But he is shooting just 17.2 percent from beyond the arc.

The one skill Hezonja was supposed to have that would make him a NBA player was his shooting. That appears to have betrayed him some. And without that, it is hard to put him on the floor considering he is still a below-average defensive player.

It is unclear if or when Orlando might send Hezonja to the D-League. The Magic are going to be home for the rest of the month and should have plenty of practice time. They like having players home for these stretches. It is possible the Magic consider moving Hezonja to Erie for the team’s January West Coast trip.

But those plans are very unclear other than the Magic discussing them.

Hezonja does not seem set to enter the rotation anytime soon. And the season continues to be a disappointing one for Hezonja.

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