Knicks forward explains slow start: Don’t want to be ‘a–hole’

Mario Hezonja is playing for his next contract, but first, he’s playing for his new teammates. Hezonja has avoided any temptation to try to put up numbers.

In fact, by design, Hezonja took his first preseason with the Knicks slowly, trying to feel out new teammates and not force anything.

When the Knicks open their season at the Garden on Wednesday against the Hawks, the 23-year-old Croatian will come off the bench after a quiet preseason.

“It’s not about me trying to show off immediately and do some crazy stuff,” Hezonja told The Post. “I’m being overly patient, trying to play for my teammates, trying to see who I fit with. It’s a new kind of team. I don’t want to be an a–hole to anybody. I’m just trying to figure out my own team. I know I can hold myself up easily. I was trying figure out the environment.”

In preseason, the 6-foot-9 Hezonja averaged eight points, one assist and 2.2 turnovers in 20 minutes per game, shooting a modest 42.4 percent. He didn’t make any starts — with Lance Thomas winning the starting power-forward job.

The unveiling of “Super Mario” — his self-proclaimed moniker — will come later.

“It’s exactly where my mindset was,” Hezonja said. “I wasn’t like: ‘Here, guys, this is me and I’m going to show you who I am.’ I feel we have great people in the locker room who hang out off the court. I don’t want to be bad chemistry. We’re all friends and the veterans are trying to help me.”

It was a surprise coach David Fizdale tabbed Thomas from the get-go, citing leadership and defense. Thomas made all five preseason starts.

“Definitely a coach’s decision — everyone respects that,” Hezonja said. “Talk to [Fizdale] more about that.”

Regarded as a knockdown shooter before the 2015 draft, Hezonja hasn’t lived up to it. His career 3-point percentage is 33 percent. In preseason, he shot 25 percent from 3 as he looks to justify his fifth-overall selection.

“It’s preseason,” Hezonja said. “Still finding rhythm.”

Knicks general manager Scott Perry, who drafted Hezonja in Orlando, is confident, and he was willing to give him another chance in New York, using most of the Knicks’ mid-level exception on a one-year, $6.5 million deal.

Hezonja committed five turnovers in the preseason opener. Orlando sources state one of his issues was forcing passes — and bad body language when his role was reduced.

“Turnovers are my mistakes,” Hezonja said. “I was getting caught into process of getting a feel for everybody here.”

Because Thomas has given him extra attention, Hezonja has no issues with losing the starting job. It’s temporary anyhow. Kristaps Porzingis eventually will inherit the slot when he returns from ACL surgery sometime between December and February.

Hezonja credits part of his improvement in Orlando last season (he averaged nine points per game) to the veteran advice of Mo Speights.

“Him and Lance are my favorite veterans I’ve had,” Hezonja said. “We expect Lance to talk. When I’m back on the bench, he always comes to me. We share the majority of minutes at the same position. He says: ‘This is what this guys does, this is what I see here.’ With Mo last season, every time I came to the bench, I’d sit next to him and he’s talking to me. When you play the game, you [usually] see one angle. When you sit at the end of the bench you see a lot of things.”

Speights left Orlando for China. Hezonja claims his first game against the Magic, Nov. 11 at the Garden, won’t be fraught with extra emotion.

“I look forward to playing against everybody, not only Orlando,” Hezonja said. “Everyone’s a target for me now.”

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