Josh Hart is returning to the Knicks at a discount. At least until his expected extension kicks in.
With a move that undoubtedly symbolizes other agreements on the horizon, Hart opted into his one-year, $12.9 million contract for next season, a source confirmed. It would’ve been a shock a month ago, when Hart said in an interview that he’ll likely opt out and hit free agency. But circumstances dictated a pivot.
By opting into his deal, Hart, 28, is eligible for an extension in August worth up to four years and $81 million. Logic indicates he wouldn’t have opted into his contract without assurances that the Knicks will extend his contract this summer at a strong number.
Hart is represented by CAA, the agency closely associated with the Knicks.
By taking less money for the upcoming season (his salary in free agency would’ve probably been around $17.5 million compared to the $12.9 option), the Knicks have more financial flexibility for this summer. Put simply: Hart’s opt-in is geared toward helping the Knicks in the short term and Hart in the long-term. Conversely, it will lighten Hart’s wallet in the short term and potentially hurt the Knicks’ flexibility in the future.
An immediate benefit for the Knicks is use of the full mid-level exception in free agency, which maxes out at around $12.4 million. They’ve been heavily linked to two-way wing Donte DiVencenzo, who would command most, if not all, of that money. ViVincenzo declined his $4.7 million option earlier this week to become a free agent. He averaged 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season with the Warriors. There’s not an obvious spot for the 26-year-old in the rotation unless RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes or Immanuel Quickley are traded.
DiVincenzo’s arrival would mark a Villanova reunion with Hart and Jalen Brunson. The trio won an NCAA title together in 2016. DiVincenzo and Brunson won another championship two years later.
Hart was acquired midseason by the Knicks for Cam Reddish and a first-round pick. He immediately injected energy into Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, with the Knicks winning nine straight after Hart joined the rotation. The expectation was always Hart would hit free agency in the summer, which he hinted at multiple times after the trade.
But then the Knicks extended the deadline for Hart’s decision until Thursday afternoon — indicating they have something more complex in the works — and Hart opted into another season at Madison Square Garden.
Source: Berkshire mont