Sometimes a Hart knows what it wants. But in this instance, Josh Hart found a connection with Tom Thibodeau he didn’t know existed.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Hart told the Daily News. “Coming here I didn’t exactly know how Thibs’ system was. But it worked out.”
The two weeks since Hart’s arrival have been like a honeymoon in Cabo, a stretch of five undefeated games that has the Knicks (35-27) closing in on the fifth spot in the East. Hart’s defense and intensity were expected after a five-year career as the hustle piece, but his offense has also been shockingly efficient and robust in New York.
“Fortunately,” Hart said. “My game really fits into the way Thibs coaches.”
In his five games as a reserve, Hart is averaging 14.2 points in just 26.2 minutes with a ridiculous 62.5% on 3-pointers. It’s too small of a sample to throw a parade, but still notably and markedly different from his shooting woes with Portland this season.
Hart’s not only attempting more 3-pointers with the Knicks, he’s nailing them at more than double the efficiency. Thibodeau, as The News reported, targeted Hart even last season in a potential trade, and now we’re seeing what the coach envisioned.
“Just more a product of the system. Having that ability. It’s really just being more involved,” Hart said after scoring 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in Saturday night’s victory over the Pelicans. “I’m trying to mind my words because I don’t want it to seem bad on Portland anything, but just [Thibodeau’s] system. Being able to be a little bit more involved more offensively gets you in a rhythm, those catch-and-shoots and those kinds of things feel a little better.”
Put it another way: Hart is doing more than just ball watching while three of his former Blazers teammates — Dame Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant — dominate the rock.
“Here I’m able to get handoffs and use ball screens do those kinds of things,” Hart said. “I have the ball in my hands a little bit more and able to play more of my game.”
It bucks reputations for the defensive-minded Thibodeau to unlock a player’s offense, but such is the impressiveness of the coach’s season. The Knicks entered Sunday with the NBA’s seventh-best offensive rating. They’re in the league’s top half of points per game and rising, averaging 123 since the Hart trade. The identity has flipped from two seasons ago, when defense carried the Knicks to the fourth seed.
They’re still playing slowly under Thibodeau but scoring more efficiently.
“I know I’ve been put into this box. I have no problem with it,” Thibodeau prophesied before the season. “But I’ve had top-5 offenses, too. I think if you understand defense, you also understand where the holes in the defense are, where you can attack the holes in the defense. And that’s one of the advantages I think you do gain.”
This is beneficial to Hart for a couple reasons. The 27-year-old’s on pace to play in his first playoff series, and his value is rising before the summer’s free agency.
Thus far, he only knows winning in New York.
“Hopefully we can keep that up,” he said.
Source: Berkshire mont
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