When the Knicks traded for Josh Hart last season the deal triggered unparalleled excitement from none other than his former college comrade and current teammate, Jalen Brunson. Even Hart himself couldn’t match the exuberance emanating from Brunson. Hart immediately fit right in with the team, providing an instant spark off the bench that helped catapult the Knicks to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Hart felt right at home. He even went as far as braiding “I ❤️ NY” in his hair.
Recognizing Hart’s instrumental role last season, the Knicks extended their gratitude with a lucrative 4-year, $81 million contract this offseason. The stakes were high for Hart this summer, as expectations soared for him to elevate his impact further, excelling in the subtle nuances that set him apart from the rest of the roster.
Unfortunately, the narrative hasn’t gone according to plan--neither for the team nor for Hart himself. His numbers and minutes are down this season when compared to last year and are the worst since he entered the league in 2017. His 28 minutes per game hasn’t been this diminished since 2019 when Hart was with the Pelicans, albeit still putting up more solid numbers during that season.
The most significant decline has come from long range. Following the trade last season, Hart boasted an impressive 51.9% accuracy from beyond the arc. However, entering tonight’s game, his deep shooting has plummeted to a career-low 28.6%, the lowest of his career.
In speaking with the media after practice on Monday, Hart expressed his frustrations for the first time this season. “Just trying to get in a rhythm. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Hart said after practice in Tarrytown. “I’m a rhythm player. I’m not someone that’s just a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter that really just only does that. That’s not really what I do. I’m more someone who can get in the lane and find guys and stuff like that, and I’m capable of making shots. When you don’t have a rhythm like that or you don’t feel included, it’s just sometimes that’s tough not touching it and having to catch and shoot. So, it’s definitely something I’m working on and hopefully [I will] get in a better rhythm.”
Hart was asked a follow-up question over what he meant by saying he wasn’t feeling included, which he followed up with an evasive answer, managing to cut himself off before he went too deep. “I think it’s just in the rhythm of the game,” he said. “Like I said, from myself, I’m an energy guy and a rhythm player. So, for me sometimes it’s tough just to get in that rhythm. So, I won’t—yeah. Sometimes [it’s] tough.”
A compelling observation arises when considering Hart’s three-point performance—a marked decline in percentage despite an increased frequency of attempts compared to the previous season. The introduction of Donte DiVincenzo into the mix this season has undeniably altered Hart’s dynamics on the court. This shift in dynamics has prompted Hart, typically reticent in airing grievances publicly, to express his frustrations to the media. The uncharacteristic move may be signaling a noteworthy concern to Coach Thibs, one that warrants careful consideration to prevent these frustrations from escalating further. Nobody wants to see Hart resorting back to his braids to showcase any frustrations by way of an “I H8 NY” design.
The potential repercussions of Hart’s discontent are not to be underestimated. As the best friend of the team’s star player, any signs of dissatisfaction by Hart and mistreatment by the organization could have a cascading effect. The Knicks, with aspirations to contend, cannot afford to let their star player become disgruntled due to issues involving his closest ally on the team. It becomes imperative for Coach Thibs and the team management to address this matter judiciously, ensuring the team’s cohesion and harmony remain intact.