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Hezonja and Croatia Suffer Bad Loss Against Nigeria

2016 August 14
by Adam Papageorgiou
heznigeria

Courtesy of FIBA.

The path to the quarterfinals just got a lot more difficult for the Orlando Magic’s Mario Hezonja and his Croatian national teammates. They fell 90-76 to Nigeria on Saturday night, leaving the door open now for Croatia to not progress from Group B and instead endure a disappointing trip home.

“2 games. 2 wins to history.” That was the message that Nigeria’s coach William Voigt told his winless team prior to tip-off as that’s what it would take to get into their first Olympic quarterfinal ever. His players definitely bought in to that pregame speech.

However, early on it looked like Croatia was going to take care of business when they led 28-21 after one quarter. They then tallied a horrific 11 points in the second period, and Nigeria knew they definitely could claim victory as they would ride hot 3-point shooting to a historic win for that African nation.

Super Mario had his worst shooting outing of these Olympics, finishing with 5 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound, and 1 turnover on 2-of-8 shooting including 1-of-5 on 3-pointers in about 16 minutes of play. All of his points came in the first 7 minutes of the contest. As the game progressed and Croatia began to struggle, so did Mario.

Hezonja wasn’t the only player to struggle offensively as players like Dario Saric (7 points) and Krunoslav Simon (2 points on 1-of-7 FGs) couldn’t contribute scoring wise. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points, and Roko Ukic (10 points) was the only other Croatian to reach double digits. Michael Umeh led Nigeria with 19 points, and Josh Akognon chipped in with 18 points.

Nigeria crushed it from 3-point range, shooting 47.2 3PT% (17-of-36) while Croatia was just a bad 21.4 3PT% (6-of-28) from deep. Here is Hezonja’s shot chart:

 

heznigshotchart

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The Magic’s 2016-2017 Season Schedule Has Been Revealed

2016 August 11
by Adam Papageorgiou

goran-dragic-elfrid-payton-nikola-vucevic-nba-miami-heat-orlando-magic-590x900

We already knew about October’s exhibition schedule, but the Orlando Magic 2016-2017 regular season schedule was revealed on Thursday. Orlando opens training camp on September 27th at the Amway Center.

It’s still 82 games. 41 at home. 41 away. The Magic will play 52 games against the Eastern Conference. 18 games v. the Atlantic Division, 18 games v. the Central Division, and 16 games v. the Southeast Division, and 30 games against the Western Conference (ten games against each West division).

As previously written, Orlando’s opening night will be Wednesday October 26th when they host the Miami Heat at Amway Center. It’s the first time the two sunshine state teams will have faced off against each other to open a regular season since 1993, and the first time in Orlando since 1992.

That’s the good news. The rough news is after that, Orlando has a difficult back-to-back. They visit Detroit on Friday October 28th to face Tobias Harris, Stan Van Gundy, and the Pistons. Then they visit Channing Frye up in Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers on Saturday October 29th for the second night of a back-to-back.

The 3-game road trip continues Tuesday November 1st as Frank Vogel’s club goes to Philadelphia. It’s the first time the Magic will face Philly with Dario Saric on the Sixers roster. Along with being a Croatian national teammate of Mario Hezonja, the Magic traded Saric to Philly during the 2014 NBA Draft in order to acquire Elfrid Payton. Here’s to the young point guard having a big time.

The Magic will play 15 back-to-backs this campaign. League average is 16.3. Orlando only has one stretch of 4 games in 5 nights (December 6th-10th). That sounds reasonable. Orlando will play a total of 18 home games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this season at home. Orlando plays 9 homes games in November, and 9 home games in March. Need to protect that parquet floor.

What’s infuriating though is that Orlando has only 1 nationally televised game on ESPN when they host the Heat on March 3rd. That’s it. There’s also 3 other NBA TV games scheduled for now. The 4 total ‘national television’ contests are the fewest in the entire NBA! Not cool. Going to have to prove a lot of America wrong.

January looks to be a very challenging month. 11 of their 16 games to start of the 2017 calendar year will be on the road, including a season-long 6-game West road trip. That’s not mentioning the Golden State Warriors come to O-Town on Sunday January 22nd. On January 29th, Bismack Biyombo returns to Toronto for the first time.

Other notable matchups include: Magic in Oklahoma City on November 13th where Serge Ibaka should get a great ovation from Thunder fans. One night later on Nov. 14th, the Magic head to Indianapolis as Vogel faces his old employer the Pacers. Orlando visits Dwight Howard and the Hawks in Atlanta on Tuesday December 13th. Orlando plays in Indiana on New Year’s Day. Orlando plays Monday January 16th – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – in Denver.

The last game before the All-Star Break is Wednesday February 15th when they host the San Antonio Spurs. First game after All-Star Weekend is a Thursday February 23rd home contest against Portland. The schedule in March and April doesn’t look too bad. Victor Oladipo doesn’t visit Orlando until Wednesday March 29th (NBA TV).

The final Magic regular season game of ’16-’17 is Wednesday April 12th when they host the Pistons at Amway Center.

See the full (including preseason) schedule below:

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Hezonja Gets First Olympic Start, Scores 6 Points in Win

2016 August 11
by Adam Papageorgiou
Courtesy of FIBA.

Courtesy of FIBA.

Croatia improved to a 2-1 record in Group B action on Thursday, holding off Olympic hosts Brazil 80-76. Orlando Magic wing Mario Hezonja was given his first Olympic start ever. The 6’8″ 21-year-old started at shooting guard and notched 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 2-of-3 shooting (all triples) in about 24 minutes of action.

Bojan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 33 points. Dario Saric tallied 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, but also 6 turnovers. Leandro Barbosa led Brazil with 16 points. Mario got benched late in crunch time due to two 4th quarter turnovers.

It’s still inexcusable that he only got three shot attempts, as the second-youngest player on that national team’s roster continues to get ignored offensively.

 

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Hezonja Scores Efficient 16 Points as Croatia Loses to Argentina

2016 August 9
by Adam Papageorgiou
hezdar

Courtesy of FIBA

Croatia may have lost to Argentina on Tuesday night, but Orlando Magic wing player Mario Hezonja had himself a wonderful showing coming off the bench. The Olympic viewing public enjoyed it I’m sure. The final score was 90-82, but the contest was much tighter in crunch time.

Croatia harmed themselves with all of the technical fouls they got whistled for, and are now 1-1 in Group B play after not building off that huge win over Spain on Sunday.

Hezonja made the most of his 24 minutes off the bench. Super Mario dropped 16 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block on 6-of-9 shooting (4-of-6 on 3s). Eleven of those points came in the second half (8 in the fourth). Mario also threw down a thunderous jam.

 

argshotchart

 

That’s a nice shot chart.

Three-pointers were the difference. Argentina shot 12-of-32 from deep, and Croatia was just 9-of-31. And remember, Mario hit four of those.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 18 points – which is actually low for him on this stage – on a so-so 5-of-13 shooting. Dario Saric may have tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists, but his 7-of-16 shooting and questionable decision making really held his squad back. Luis Scola led Argentina with 23 points. Manu Ginobili added thirteen.

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Orlando Unveils ‘Stars’ Alternate Jersey for ’16-’17 Campaign

2016 August 9
by Adam Papageorgiou

front

The Orlando Magic on Tuesday unveiled a brand new black alternate jersey for the 2016-2017 season. It’s unknown how many contests these will be worn. The “Stars” uniforms are the team’s 5th uniform in the rotation now to go along with their home white, road blue, alternate road black pinstripe, and the Pride uniforms. This is Adidas’ last hurrah as the NBA’s uniform provider, as Nike will take over beginning in the ’17-’18 campaign.

These are sleeveless, and remind me of many Adidas and Nike jerseys that currently exist with European club and country franchises. So I’m very comfortable with them. My first impressions? I like them a lot, and I didn’t think I could say that about a Magic jersey that doesn’t have pinstripes.

 

 

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Hezonja Scores 5 Points, Croatia Upsets Spain in Group B Opener

2016 August 8
by Adam Papageorgiou
Courtesy of FIBA

Courtesy of FIBA

If Croatia was hoping to sneak up on teams as the tournament progresses, that strategy just went out the window. In their Group B opener, the Croatians decided to upset the best team in the tournament not named ‘Team USA’ as they scratched and clawed their way to a 72-70 victory over Spain.

This coming despite Pau Gasol dropping 26 points and Nikola Mirotic notching 19 points for the Spaniards. Dario Saric (5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) closed out the contest with the game-winning rejection on Pau.

Orlando Magic wing player Mario Hezonja tallied 5 points – all coming in the first half – on 2-for-5 shooting (1-of-3 on triples), 2 rebounds, and 1 assist in 15 minutes of action. Zero turnovers. Didn’t commit a foul despite staying active on defense.

One of those buckets was a 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer. That proved mighty important, because Spain’s lead was chopped down to just 38-32 at the break with that trey.

 

 

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Penny & Pops Podcast: Ban Lists

2016 August 7

New MBO Facebook Profile Pic

Mario Hezonja and Croatia begin their Olympic medal quest. The 21-year-old was able to walk at the opening ceremony and seems to be enjoying himself.

France looks to already be regretting leaving Evan Fournier at home.

Damjan Rudez will be joining the Magic, which means Frank Vogel could be looking at 3 former Pacers on his new squad.

Penny tells a unique Pat Garrity story.

The preseason schedule is out, and what that means for Orlando.

Elfrid Payton was voted ‘best teammate’ according to the NBAPA’s polling. Nikola Vucevic is preparing for his EuroBasket qualifying journey with Montenegro.

Finally, the Magic official Twitter account is polling fans on who the Top 25 players in franchise history are, and the results have not gone well so far.

Warning: Adult Language

 

 

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO.

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Hezonja, Croatia to Challenge for an Olympic Medal

2016 August 6
by Adam Papageorgiou
Courtesy of FIBA

Courtesy of FIBA

Saturday marks the beginning of actual basketball games occurring at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Orlando Magic have one representative participating: Mario Hezonja.

The 21-year-old wing player is coming off his rookie NBA campaign and – as the second-youngest member of his national team – is looking to help bring glory to his country of Croatia.

This will be Croatia’s 4th Olympic Games. They won silver in 1992 – losing to that legendary ‘Dream Team’ in the final – in Barcelona, finished 7th in 1996 in Atlanta, and 6th place in Beijing in 2008. Long gone are the days of Toni Kukoc leading his nation. They had won FIBA World Cup bronze in 1994, as well as bronze in 1993 and 1995 at EuroBasket.

So it’s been 21 years since this Croatian NT has won a medal in a major tournament, and they’ve never won gold. That could change very soon. 22-year-old Dario Saric will be the star of that squad sooner than later. Saric will be joining the Philadelphia 76ers this upcoming season. Brooklyn Net Bojan Bogdanovic is the man though who scores the majority of the points. Krunoslav Simon is the reason Hezonja isn’t starting yet. Simon’s 3-point shooting can be outstanding at times. Roko Ukic is the captain, and his point guard play will be huge in a tournament that can easily be dominated by ball-handlers. They don’t have Ante Tomic at center, but there’s respectable depth at that position with Miro Bilan and Darko Planinic there. Croatia had the toughest path this summer to even get to the Olympics.

 

croatia wikipedia

 

 

In the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin, Croatia shook off a first-game loss to Italy. They’d beat Tunisia, and then took down a Greece team that played badly in a do-or-die situation. Croatia shocked a lot of people by beating Italy in the OQT final on Italian soil. In overtime. Against guys like Danilo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli, Luigi Datome, Daniel Hackett, and Andrea Bargnani nonetheless. It’s a big deal to punch that ticket to the Olympics, and Mario is part of that.

Hezonja is playing a 6th man role, but coach Aleksander Petrovic has been pleased with Mario’s performances in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and last friendly preparation contests prior to the trip to Brazil. Hezonja was at his best when he played and defended the point guard position. Otherwise, he can get lost in the offense because the coaching staff wants him camping out in the corners so the floor spreads for the ball-handlers like Saric and Ukic. We’ll see how Mario’s role evolves while in Brazil.

At the OQT, the 6’8″ Mario averaged 4.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, and 1.8 apg on a rough 28.6 FG% (6-of-21) and 20.0 3PT% (2-of-10). The shooting leaves a lot to be desired, but Mario’s overall outings were solid when you factor in the defense and ball distribution he provided.

Mario had better numbers at the 2015 EuroBasket last year, but that was a tournament where Croatia sadly finished in 9th place. Hezonja averaged 6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 1.2 apg on 41.2 FG% (14-of-34) and 27.3 3PT% (6-of-22). For Croatia to go far in these Olympics, Mario is going to have to put up his best averages ever for the senior national team. Eight or nine points per contest would be ideal, but we all should hope for better shooting efficiency.

Let’s take a look at Croatia’s chances at success in the coming week or two.

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Damjan Rudez is Joining the Magic…in Some Capacity

2016 August 6
by Adam Papageorgiou

damjan-rudez-nba-indiana-pacers-orlando-magic-590x900

The Orlando Magic have 13 players under contract currently for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. 30-year-old Croatian forward Damjan Rudez could be the fourteenth. Here’s where the confusion kicks in. It was first reported by Eurohoops that ‘Damo’ was joining the Magic, and that he was expected to be signed to a one-year deal for the season.

Not so fast. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports that the 6’10” 3-point shooting specialist has only been given a training camp invite, and that Rudez will have to prove himself in training camp and the preseason to get a contract for the year.

 

 

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Will Opening Night Be A Sunshine State Rivalry Meeting?

2016 August 5
by Adam Papageorgiou

voochwhiteside

The Orlando Magic 2016-2017 regular season schedule isn’t expected to be released until next week, but portions of it are beginning to leak out. One rumored game in particular has caught my attention. Opening night.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel seems to have caught wind of a few contests that will occur based off the ‘preliminary schedules’ being circulated to NBA teams and television broadcast partners. I’m sure there will be some changes to those schedules when they’re finalized, but in that piece from Winderman comes news related to the Magic.

Orlando will apparently be hosting the Miami Heat at Amway Center on Wednesday October 26th. It would be the season opener for the Heat. Not reported, is if it would be the first contest for Orlando. I’m going to assume it is considering Orlando hosted their ’15-’16 season opener on a Wednesday against the Wizards.

I hope this Heat-Magic duel is true because not only is this a Southeast division matchup to begin the ’16-’17 campaign, but also the first of 4 sunshine state battles. Orlando is looking to regain supremacy in what I still strongly consider to be a rivalry.

The Magic have not faced each other to open a campaign since 1993 when Orlando defeated the Heat in Miami by 20 points. Shaquille O’Neal had 42 points and 12 rebounds, and a rookie Anfernee Hardaway posted 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. The two teams haven’t faced each other in the playoffs since 1997.

The Magic hosted Miami to open the ’92-’93 season at the O-rena where the home side won by ten. A rookie Shaq had 12 points and 18 rebounds, while Nick Anderson led the way with 42 points. Dennis Scott dropped 27 in victory. Fun times.

We already know Orlando’s last preseason game will be a home game against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 20th. That leaves 5 full preparation days between then and when this reported regular season contest takes place for Frank Vogel’s squad. As a friendly reminder, due to his playoff flagrant foul while a member of the Toronto Raptors, Bismack Biyombo won’t be available for the first regular season game.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO.

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