Josh Hart’s start, analyzing the front office, and inconsistent RJ Barrett

Feb 13, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) reacts after a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A few notes thoughts on the Knicks as they head into the All-Star Break:


Josh Hart has played 77 minutes as a Knick. The Knicks have outscored their opponents by a combined 41 points in those minutes.

Not a bad first impression.

“He’s a great fit for (Tom Thibodeau),” an opposing assistant coach said of Hart. “The perfect Thibs guy.”

You don’t judge a trade after six days. But the early returns on the Hart deal are promising.

Hart gives the Knicks’ second unit – and their closing lineups – defensive versatility. Hart has matched up against lead guards, guards playing off the ball and wings in his first thee Knick games.

That versatility is one of several elements that make Hart ‘the perfect Thibs guy.’

“The thing I love about what Josh does for the team is, it’s for the team. Everything,” Thibodeau said earlier this week. “There’s a lot of guys who score points in this league, and they really don’t impact winning the way Josh impacts winning. It’s just tough plays, a hustle play, kill yourself to get back (on defense). We turn it over, sprint back, steal the ball back.

“Plays like that give your team a lot of confidence. It’s a lot of dirty work, but it’s also the glue of your team. It helps you stick together. There’s going to be ups and downs during a game, a season, and those types of guys are the type that help you build a winning culture.”

You know Thibodeau likes Hart because he’s played him heavy fourth-quarter minutes. Hart is averaging 10 fourth-quarter minutes in his first three Knick games. New York is +20 in those fourth-quarter minutes, per

Again, it’s early. So any of Hart’s Knicks statistics should be viewed with proper perspective. But Hart also seems to enjoy the role he’s playing for Thibodeau thus far.

Look at his shot profile: Hart has taken 14 threes in the past three games. Forty-eight percent of his attempts as a Knick have come from beyond the arc. Thirty-two percent of Hart’s attempts this season with the Blazers were from beyond the arc. Hart credits Thibodeau for putting him in position to take and make those shots.

“He’s giving me the ability to make plays, to do ball screens, get dribble handoffs and just have the ultimate green light,” Hart said of Thibodeau earlier this week. “So it gives me that confidence, so now those catch-and-shoot shots are more in rhythm.”

Hart has already expressed optimism about staying in New York long-term. He has a player option for the 2023-24 season. But those are conversations for late June.

At the moment, Hart seems focused on finding his footing in New York. So far, so good.

“I’m just a blue collar guy; I think that’s really going to work well here,” he says.


The Knicks enter the break in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They are two games behind Brooklyn and a half-game ahead of Miami. New York has the eighth-toughest remaining schedule, according to The Knicks’ remaining opponents have a winning percentage of .512. Remaining opponents for the Nets and Heat actually have the same winning percentage. New York has one game left against Brooklyn (March 1) and three against the Heat (two road games).

One positive for the Knicks? They have three games in March where they’re at a rest advantage (facing a team that is playing a second game of a back-to-back). And they have two games where they’re at a rest disadvantage. March is one of just two months this season where New York has a net-positive in rest advantage games.


Team president Leon Rose and his group are trying to do something that no one in pro sports has accomplished in the last 20-plus years: Build a winning NBA team at Madison Square Garden. They’ve been at it for roughly three years. In that time, Rose & Co. have had some hits (strong drafts; Jalen Brunson signing) and misses (most of their 2021 free agent decisions; the Cam Reddish trade). Ultimately, I think the group will be judged mostly on moves yet to come; namely, the trade they make – or don’t make – for a star player. But if you look at their decisions over the past three years, even the harshest Knicks critic would agree that they’ve proved to be competent.

That may seem like a low bar or back-handed compliment. It isn’t. Rose & Co. have a foundation to build off of. That’s not something you could say about the Knicks very often over the past two-plus decades.

They saw something in Brunson that several other teams around the league didn’t see. The Hartenstein signing looks solid. And, as noted above, the early returns on the Hart trade have been strong.

Obviously, the signings in the 2021 offseason backfired. The Reddish trade didn’t work on the court and revealed fissures in the organization. Not every draft pick has been a home run (the Knicks’ thought process behind taking Obi Toppin remains questionable, at best).

But the Knicks have the assets in place to trade for a star player. And they’ve been able to (mostly) maintain those assets while winning games. That’s a level of competency that you haven’t seen often at 2 Penn Plaza over the past two decades.


RJ Barrett has had an up-and-down season so far. Over the last five weeks, he’s shooting 43 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. The Knicks’ plus-minus with Barrett on the floor in that span is -88, per Basketball-reference. How can the Knicks get Barrett trending in the right direction over the next seven weeks?

Before his finger dislocation, Barrett seemed to have a good rhythm with the starters and the second unit. The numbers indicate that something has been different since he returned from injury. Based on his career in New York, I wouldn’t bet against Barrett bouncing back and figuring it out. He’s battled through poor shooting stretches in the past and come out on the other side of them just fine. I don’t think this stretch is any different. But the Knicks need to get more from Barrett on both ends of the floor after the All-Star break.