Knicks guard Josh Hart warms up for the team's NBA...

Knicks guard Josh Hart warms up for the team's NBA game against the Jazz on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Bryan Woolston

Josh Hart didn’t really need to introduce himself with a long description, not with six years in the NBA and a body of work that impressed the Knicks enough that they were willing to put a first-round pick on the table to bring him to Madison Square Garden. But with every word he endeared himself a little closer to Tom Thibodeau’s heart.

As he readied for his Knicks debut with an early evening news conference, Hart was asked about the last time he was at the Garden — when the 6-4 wing pulled down an astounding 19 rebounds.

“I should have had 20. I fouled out,” Hart said. “Jalen [Brunson] gave me three [darn] fouls that game. So I’m a guy that’s going to bring it every night. I’m a guy that’s going to be physical. I’m a guy that’s going to do the dirty work. Going to rebound, going to defend. Get on the floor for a loose ball and do those kind of things. I feel like that style fits every team, especially a New York team. That’s what this city is about and what the city builds off of. I take that with pride. I’m just a blue collar guy; I think that’s really going to work well here.”

It’s almost as if you could see the likes of Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Patrick Ewing and John Starks standing behind him as he spoke. None of them were present, but he would soon be reporting in to Thibodeau and the Knicks coach longs for those sort of players — defense first, grit above glamour.

While Hart, who started 51 games for the Portland Trail Blazers before the deal Wednesday, is likely to come off the bench, it is those hard-nosed characteristics that provide the fit that the Knicks sought. Sent out in the trade was Cam Reddish, who some in the organization considered the best athlete on the team. But Reddish was buried on the bench because despite his made-in-a-lab frame and skill set, his motor and mindset didn’t mesh with Thibodeau’s.

So Hart, who won a national championship at Villanova with Brunson, was brought in. And although he can opt out of his contract he sounded enthusiastic that after four teams in six seasons he was finally home.

“For sure. Obviously on the court, there's a lot of things I'm excited about, with teammates and Thibs and the front office I'm familiar with,” said Hart, who was teammates with Julius Randle on the Lakers at the start of his career. “The organization, and even off the court. I'm close to family. My wife is pregnant, so we'll have a couple little ones running around. Not running, but just around, and it'll be great to have family close by, and those kinds of things. So it works well on and off the court. 

“It’s definitely somewhere that I would definitely like to be. Like I said, it's my third time getting traded, sixth year in the league, fourth team, sixth head coach. It's been a whirlwind. I didn't think that was how my first six years were going to be, but I'm looking for a home, and I think this could be it.”

While Thibodeau wasn’t committing to his role, he was confident that Hart is the kind of player who fits easily.

“Just fit in. He’ll get acclimated as we go along,” Thibodeau said. “That’s the normal protocol — you get traded and you have a basic package to start with and then you add as you go. He’s been through it before. You try to put a package together. There’s a lot of similarities in terms of some of the places he’s been — they’ve done things defensively that are similar. Offensively there’s some basic things that you know he does well. You start with the things that he does well first.

“We’ve gone through some things. Tomorrow we’ll go through more things. You do it with video, you do it playbook. You have teaching tapes. You utilize your teaching tapes and you go from there.”


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