Jalen Brunson was at Villanova for his jersey retirement ceremony when he learned that his college teammate Josh Hart was heading to the New York Knicks.
“Oh s–t,” Brunson exclaimed, followed by an ecstatic “Yes!”
The Knicks finally made a midseason move less than 24 hours before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline that bolsters their 30-win roster.
Hart logged a career-high 19 rebounds on top of 10 points, four assists, and two steals during Portland’s visit to Madison Square Garden earlier in the season, which didn’t go unnoticed.
“That’s what he does. He’s probably the best rebounding guard in the league,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau said of Hart after helping the Trail Blazers to a 132-129 overtime win over the Knicks last November. “When the ball goes up, if you stand and stare, that’s gonna be a problem. If you turn and check, there’s gotta be a physicality to it. He’s got a great nose for the ball. He anticipates well. [He’s] Strong.”
It cost the Knicks only spare parts and a lottery-protected pick to get Hart, who fits Thibodeau’s style.
The Trail Blazers received disgruntled former lottery pick Cam Reddish, a 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick, Svi Mykhailiuk, and another Villanova product Ryan Arcidiacono, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
If the pick doesn’t convey in the next draft, it turns into four future second-round picks, of which the Knicks have a surplus.
Brunson and Hart hope to rekindle their partnership that helped the Wildcats win the 2016 NCAA title at the Knicks backcourt.
And based on Brunson’s reaction, he can’t wait to play with Hart again.
Hart’s acquisition means Miles McBride could soon find himself out of the rotation. It will be interesting to see a competition between Hart and Quentin Grimes.
Will Hart’s longer NBA experience and chemistry with Brunson win him the starting job right away?
Like Grimes, the 27-year-old Hart can defend multiple positions. Hart’s career-high 8.2-rebound average this season is tops among guards no taller than 6-5. But his outside shooting took a hit this season with the return of Damian Lillard.
In 51 games with the Trail Blazers this season, Hart shot only 30.4 percent on 2.2 attempts, a far cry from his 37.3 percent clip last season on a career-high 6.4 attempts.
Hart is owed $12.9 million this season and has a player option of the same amount next season. If he opts out, which is likely, the Knicks will have his Bird rights to re-sign him over the salary cap.
The trade also opened up two roster spots for the Knicks.
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