Josh Hart felt left out in the cold after his former teammate, Damian Lillard, picked the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets over his current team, New York Knicks, as his preferred landing spots in a hypothetical trade.
“Damn, I thought I was your dawg too… Dame Lillard,” Hart said, quote tweeting his former Portland Trail Blazers teammate interview with Showtimes’ The Last Stand.
Hart spent half of last season and half of this season in Portland before he was dealt at the February trade deadline to the Knicks in exchange for Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk and the 23rd of this year’s draft.
At the time of the Hart trade, Lillard was left stunned as they both learned the deal during warm-up on February 8 game against the Golden State Warriors.
The Trail Blazers superstar had a lengthy reaction to the trade after the game.
“It’s tough. I think, for everybody who’s been here the entire time that I’ve been here, one of the hardest parts is when you form a friendship, form a bond with somebody, and everybody’s looking at ‘What are they doing on the court? What can they do to get better?’ You know, everybody else is looking at it from a business standpoint and how to improve and all these things, but we get up and spend time with each other every day. We on the plane together, we in the practice facility, we in the training room, we in the locker room, we in the cold tub, we in the steam room. We spend more time with each other than we do with our family.
That makes it hard. And especially with Josh because we actually formed a friendship and you just get used to people being around. So, any time that happens it’s tough, but I think, for him, just knowing that he is a good dude, he’s a good person, I know that he liked being in Portland, he wanted to be in Portland and, you know, you get people to come here and know that they want to be here but the business takes over is just unfortunate. Like I said, it’s part of the business. It’s the thing that I, I guess, struggle with the most about it, but it’s part of it and that’s what we signed up for.”
In his interview with The Last Stand, Lillard mentioned Heat’s All-Star forward Bam Adebayo and Nets’ rising star Mikal Bridges, Hart’s former teammate at Villanova, as his “dawgs” and why he’d consider their teams if ever his time in Portland comes to an end.
Hart was hurt he wasn’t mentioned.
Josh Hart Intends to Test Free Agency
As expected, Hart will decline his $12.9 million player option and seek a more lucrative deal in the open market. But his preferred choice is to stick with the Knicks, who he helped reached the second round of the playoffs after his midseason trade.
“We’ll probably decline that and do the free agency thing,” Hart told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks. “My first free agency, I was restricted, and it was a**…I love New York. I love the team. I love the coaching staff. The front office that we have, I think, building in the right direction. Got young guys, draft picks, all those sort of things. Obviously, that would be an ideal place to re-sign there and do that. But, obviously, I know it’s a business; they gotta want me at a certain price, and I gotta want the same thing.”
Hart averaged 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting above 50% from deep in 27 regular-season games as a vital cog off the bench with the Knicks. In his first playoff appearance, Hart posted 10.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.8 steals but his 3-point percentage dipped to a dismal 31.3%.
Knicks Expected to Cave in to Josh Hart’s Demands in Trade Talks
The Knicks are expected to try to keep Hart at all cost after giving up their first-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire him.
“They loved what he did for them,” an Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney. “He completely remade that bench, which was a pretty terrible bench for a while there. I think there is no way they let him leave. They will not be looking to give him a four-year deal, but if he insists on it, they probably will cave. They really like him. So, the expectation would be he goes back with the Knicks.”