The video of Knicks guard Jalen Brunson’s exuberant reaction upon learning he was being reunited with former college teammate and close friend Josh Hart went viral. Heading into last night’s (Wednesday) game versus the Atlanta Hawks on the road, the rest of the Knicks should also be energized by Hart’s arrival.
He made an instant mark in his first game with his new team after being acquired last Thursday in a four-team deal. The 27-year-old Silver Spring, Maryland, native came to New York from the Portland Trailblazers in a deal that included forward Cam Reddish, shooting guard/forward Svi Mykhailiuk, guard Ryan Arcidiacono, and a protected 2023 first-round pick being traded by the Knicks.
The 6’5″ Hart, the 2017 Big East Player of the Year, who won an NCAA title with Brunson at Villanova in 2016, made his Knicks debut last Saturday at Madison Square Garden in a 126–120 win against the Utah Jazz, posting 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in 26 minutes, as well as flashing his 2017 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year credentials.
Two nights later at MSG, Hart registered a season-high 27 points off the bench in the Knicks’ 124–106 victory over the Brooklyn Nets as they raised their record to 32–27 and grabbed the No. 7 place in the Eastern Conference, just half a game behind the No. 6 seed Miami Heat, which was 3226 before facing the Nets in Brooklyn yesterday evening. Brunson led the Knicks on Monday with 40 points, catalyzing his team into ending a nine-game losing streak versus the Nets.
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After the win, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau noted the transcendental connection between Hart and Brunson.
“It’s pretty easy to see…The thing with Jalen and [Josh] is to go through big moments, and have the pressure of winning a National Championship together—I think that ties you together with that group forever,” said Thibodeau.
”That bond is special and the thing I love that Josh does for the team is that it’s for the team, everything. I think there’s a lot of guys [who] score points in this league and don’t really impact winning the way Josh impacts winning. Sometimes it’s just tough plays, a hustle play, kill yourself to get back on defense, we turn it over, sprint back, steal the ball back.
“Plays like that give your team a lot of confidence,” Thibodeau added. “It’s a lot of dirty work, but it’s also the glue of your team and it helps you stick together. There’s going to be ups and downs during a game, a season, and those types of guys I think are the type that helps you build a winning culture, so we’re thrilled obviously to have him.”
The Knicks will play the Washington Wizards on the road tomorrow before beginning the All-Star break. Afterward, their next game will be February 24 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.