Knicks’ Josh Hart planning to decline option, wants to return to New York

Josh Hart Knicks
Josh Hart (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Much of the talk in recent weeks about Knicks’ forward Josh Hart has centered around his public declaration that breast milk tastes better than almond milk. He talked about it with Stephen A. Smith and filmed an interview with Taylor Rooks of TNT and Bleacher Report where he discussed the blind taste test that led to his viral Tweet. 

However, while the larger narrative is focused on his milk preferences, Josh Hart also dropped a rather significant nugget in his interview with Rooks, confirming that his plan is to decline his player option and make himself a free agent.

“We’ll probably decline that [option] and do the free agency thing,” Hart told Rooks.

While it’s not a surprise, hearing the statement from Hart himself does make it feel far more real. 

By declining the option, the veteran forward will bypass the final year of his contract with the Knicks, forgoing $12.96MM in the hopes of getting more on the open market. As we covered back in May, he is all but assured to be making the correct gamble in that regard. 

There were many reports, including one by Michael Scotto on HoopsHype, that Hart has increased his potential contract numbers with his play in the final weeks of the season. “According to four NBA executives who spoke with HoopsHype, Hart is now projected to be worth $15-18 million annually in free agency this summer.”

Josh Hart Knicks
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Darius Garland is defended by New York Knicks’ Josh Hart during the first half of Game 1 in a first-round NBA basketball playoffs series Saturday, April 15, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Nick Cammett)

However, despite looking at a likely raise this offseason, Hart also said directly to Rooks that his hope is to return to the Knicks. 

“I love New York,” he said. “I love the team. I love the coaching staff and the front office that we have. Obviously, that would be an ideal place for me, to just re-sign there. Everything’s perfect off the court and on the court.”

His comments echoed earlier statements he made after being traded to the Knicks from the Portland Trail Blazers. 

“It’s a perfect situation for me on and off the court,” he said back in February. “I want a home. I want to find a home. This is a place where I would love that home to be. On the court, there are so many things that align with my principles as a player, and off the court just being around friends and close to family. This would be an amazing spot.”

Hart started 51 games for Portland in 2022-23 before being traded to the Knicks at February’s trade deadline. He came off the bench for the Knicks in all but one regular-season game and was an immediate spark plug for the team, averaging 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25 games. In 11 playoff games, including five starts, he averaged 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.

He proved himself to be an incredibly valuable member of the rotation for a Knicks team that desperately needed his rebounding and defense on the wing. Now it’s up to New York to ensure he remains in town. 

Hart made it clear to Rooks that his first free agency experience, in which he was a restricted free agent, was dreadful and he “actually cried a little bit” because it took almost three weeks for him to sign a deal, and he wondered if teams actually wanted him. 

“I don’t think this free agency will go that way,” he explained, saying that he hopes to make a commitment in the “first day or two” of free agency.

That means Knicks fans won’t need to wait too long to find out if their milk connoisseur will be returning. 

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