Josh Hart is compiling clutch playoff moments as big payday awaits – The Denver Post

CLEVELAND — When the temperature and pressure rise, Josh Hart is built to run into the smoke.

“The fourth quarter, and especially the last 6 minutes, that’s winning time,” Hart said before New York’s potential closeout Game 5 on Wednesday. “In my mind, there’s no such thing as fatigue, no such thing as being tired, no such thing as being hurt. If I’m out there, that’s the time where I gotta raise my attention to detail, raise my intensity, raise my energy even more. And that’s something that I’ve always been wired to do. So for me, it’s once that time hits, it’s totally different. In my eyes, it’s 0-0 and you’ve got to go win it.”

Other than Jalen Brunson, there’s no greater success story to this Knicks campaign than Hart. His acquisition in February immediately shifted the team’s trajectory, and the positive impact has only increased in the playoffs.

It’s been the perfect match. The Knicks required Hart’s defense and intangibles, and the player required a platform to increase his value heading into free agency. Bobby Marks, a longtime NBA executive and current ESPN front office insider, told the Daily News that Hart could be looking for an annual salary in the “$16-$18 million range.”

That would translate to roughly $70 million over four years, and the Knicks have the advantage of holding Hart’s Bird Rights. Such a market would obviously prompt Hart to decline his $12.9 million option for next season, which Marks noted is attached to a June 24 deadline.

It’s a worthy investment if the 28-year-old Hart continues to produce at this level. Players so willing to sacrifice and engage in the dirty work don’t surface as often in the NBA these days.

With Quentin Grimes struggling and injured in the series, Hart has been the main defender on Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell — a task he aced heading into Game 5.

On offense, Hart committed to the role of crashing the boards. He takes pleasure in an offensive rebound the way another player might internalize a game-winning buzzer-beater. Three days after the Game 4 victory, Hart was still glowing about his rebound that led to Brunson’s dagger 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining.

“I get those rebounds that break teams, like, those ones that they’ll be like, ‘s—t,’” Hart said. “It’s depleting. You call timeout, you go to the bench. And for us, we’re excited. Them, their spirits are down. That’s what I want to do. Those are the plays that I want to make, that break teams.”

Heading into Game 5, Hart grabbed more fourth-quarter rebounds than any player in the series (on either team). Only Brunson had more fourth-quarter points than Hart.

He was killing the Cavs when it mattered most.

“The scouting report on me, does this, does that, does this. But those effort plays, it’s hard to scout,” Hart said. “And if you’re not defending that for a full 48 minutes, you’re gonna have slippage.

And a lot of times that slippage is the last 4-6 minutes of the game, when you start resorting back to the habits that for a guard, you’re not used to tag-in or blocking out another guard, that late in the game. I know that, I know that’s when slippage happens, and for me, that’s when I take it to another level.”


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