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Josh Hart emerges as a legit rotation piece in USA’s win over New Zealand

Hart did his thing in the USA’s World Cup opener

2023 FIBA World Cup - USA Men’s National Team v New Zealand Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Knicks wing Josh Hart was the final player to join Team USA’s roster for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The Hart selection had some fans snickering on social media, but Knicks fans know how much Hart can contribute to winning basketball.

It took Hart a few warmup games to find his footing, but in Saturday’s World Cup opener, he showed how he can contribute in the USA’s quest for the gold medal. The boys in red, white a blue struggled out of the gate against New Zealand, falling behind by 10 early, but the second unit quickly brought them back into the game. The USA was never going to lose to New Zealand — they took the lead by the end of the first quarter in an easy 99-72 win — but some familiar patterns started to emerge. First, starting USA small forward Brandon Ingram continued to struggle, as he did throughout the warmup schedule. Hart and Cam Johnson benefitted from Ingram’s struggles by getting more minutes. Hart ended up playing as many minutes (15) as Ingram on Saturday and finished with a team-best plus-28 in the win. He chipped in five points and four rebounds. It’ll be interesting to see if Hart continues to win more minutes if Ingram can’t get on track.

As for Jalen Brunson, he too overcame a sluggish start to put up 10 points, four rebounds and four assists in the win.

The Americans continue Group A play on Monday morning when they take on Greece. The Greeks might be their toughest opponent in the Group, even without Giannis. Tune in!