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Knicks’ Hart is one with the raucous fans of New York

Vaseline 2 months ago

GREENBURGH – In the final minute of the Knicks Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden, Josh Hart celebrated with an unprintable shout to the crowd, perhaps no less unprintable than what most of them shouted for much of the night .

And perhaps that’s why Hart, who hasn’t elicited any MVP chants at the Garden or been the subject of the postseason awards ceremonies, has endeared himself to the fans. Hart isn’t a superstar talent, but he is one of them.

New Yorkers, perhaps rightly, see themselves as rougher than other cities, so why wouldn’t they love a player who regularly gives nearly three feet of clearance to players he outsmarts for rebounds, who races around the floor in a way that prompting Brunson , to joke when asked what Hart brings to the Knicks’ starting lineup: “cardio.”

But with the “NY” braided in his hair for the playoffs and the wild celebration that even got John Starks out of his chair and raising his fist, Hart has become the conduit between the team and the fans at Madison Square Garden.

“For me, it really suits my game,” Hart said of New York, the fourth team he has played for, but the one in which he seemed to find a home. “I’m an ordinary person who plays the game extremely hard, extremely passionate and just resilient. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think that’s what this city is in general. That’s just how I feel. I’m going to bring the energy, I’m going to bring the passion and the power. And when I get knocked down, I pick myself up. Sometimes I have to let my teammates pick me up. That’s just my mentality.”

Hart helped save the Knicks in Game 1, contributing 22 points and 13 rebounds — 13 of his points coming in the fourth quarter and bringing the team from behind on a rare night when Brunson struggled to find his offense.

But no matter how big the shots were, with Hart it was always something more than that.

“Everything,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “His rebounding, his hustle, making shots, big plays, loose balls. Just participating in every piece, a lot of intangibles. Even though he had great stats, you really can’t measure him that way.”

He has six triple-doubles this season, providing some of what the Knicks need. But he always does it in an all-out manner that has endeared him to fans and drawn comparisons to the hard-hitting Knicks teams of the 1990s.

“When I see John Starks, he always mentions it, the toughness and the method that they had, that the city has and this team, including myself,” Hart said. “For me that is a huge achievement. That’s what I feel like this city, the team, this franchise, especially with (coach) Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) and (Knicks president) Leon (Rose) and (VP) Wes (William Wesley), that’s what we being building. ”

He has appealed to the upper deck crowd, the ones who fill the streets with wild celebrations after the match, as well as the long-suffering celebrity fans like Tracy Morgan, Ben Stiller and Fat Joe – all of whom have appeared on The Roommates Show. podcast he has with Brunson. And in most of them he sees a difference from the celebrities who line the front rows in Los Angeles.

“These are guys who have been lifelong Knicks fans,” Hart said. “They’re all talking about nosebleeds when they were little, ticket scalping, and now they’re getting allotted $100,000 seats. It’s amazing for them to actually see it. But it’s definitely cool because you see the passion they have. It’s not just that they have fun on the field and want to be seen. They are really passionate fans.”

And it’s Hart who usually lights the group up now, stirring up fond memories of those old Knicks teams, as he did with an enthusiastic celebration Saturday.

‘I said a lot of things. A few expletives,” Hart said after the game. ‘So tell my mom and dad I’m sorry for the language. It was just the passion I play with. I knew I was going to be left open at the three-point line, with no disrespect. And if you base it on regular season numbers, I think I shot about 30%. So it’s a smart game plan. For me it’s just continuing to photograph. I made my first and missed my next four. And normally I would just hesitate. But just keep shooting, keep shooting. Make sure they respect me.”