Josh Hart hopeful for long
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LAS VEGAS — For someone whose basketball future can be altered in a big way less than a week from now, Josh Hart sounded pretty nonplussed Thursday.
Talks on an extension between Hart and the Knicks can open Aug. 9, with the widespread assumption being the sides will agree to terms after Hart picked up a $12.9 million player option for the coming season.
Not only was that less money than Hart could have earned on the open market, but it helped give the Knicks flexibility to bring in Donte DiVincenzo, whose presence makes three former Villanova standouts on the roster.
“Hopefully,” Hart said of a long-term extension. “Opting in, I was gonna take it one day at a time. We get there and then we can start having that conversation. Hopefully — that’s a place where I want to be and a place I want to call home. So we’ll see.”
Hart’s being in Las Vegas alone signals confidence that something will get done.
It’s rare that a player up for free agency or an extension will risk injury by playing in an international event over the summer, but that’s just what Hart is doing here.
Team USA will spend the next few days here in camp, culminating in an exhibition game Monday against Puerto Rico before making a slow march eastward to Malaga, Spain, then Abu Dhabi, then Manila, Philippines, for the FIBA World Cup.
Hart said there was “a little bit” of hesitation over playing with the team and potentially hurting himself, but not enough to stop him coming.
“It was just something that I wanted to do in terms of going out there, playing for USA, representing your country’s a dream, so having the opportunity to go do that,” he said. “And then having friends on the team: Jalen [Brunson], Mikal [Bridges], BI [Brandon Ingram], Ty [Haliburton], Cam [Johnson].”
For the Knicks, the hope is that Hart and Brunson will be able to hit the ground running after playing with Team USA.
Hart, who was added in a February deal for the regular season’s last 25 games, comes into the season as a key part of a roster that won the franchise its first playoff series since 2013 in the spring.
On Thursday, he sounded very much like someone who sees himself in New York for the long haul.
“I felt like it was home when I got there,” Hart said. “So now I’m just excited to be in the Garden for a full 41-plus, hopefully. And just having that New York vibe, that New York energy behind us.”
That, he said, played heavily into his decision to opt in.
“It was a hard decision, but New York is somewhere I wanted to be,” he said. “And we’ll get to everything else, hopefully later down the line. But opted in, New York is where I want to be. It’s where I want to call home. I feel like that was the best decision to do.”
As things stand currently, the Knicks will bring back essentially the same roster that won 47 games last season, with the addition of DiVincenzo and the subtraction of Obi Toppin being the two major changes.
The possibility of dealing for a superstar should one become available during the season — Joel Embiid being the latest subject of speculation thanks to recent podcast comments about wanting to win titles “in Philly or anywhere else” — remains, but right now, the Knicks are confident about bringing the band back together.
“We just gotta continue to get better. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Hart said. “I think we can continue to do that. We’re hungry. I think no one’s happy or complacent with where we ended up. I think we all felt like we could’ve got further. So we had that in the back of our mind. We’re ready to go, end of September.”