“We’ll probably decline that (option) and do the free agency thing,” Hart said.
Hart will leave $12.96MM on the table but he’s expected to get a raise in free agency, whether or not he stays in New York.
Hart started 51 games for the Trail Blazers this season before he was dealt to the Knicks at February’s trade deadline. He came off the bench for the Knicks in all but one regular-season game after the trade, averaging 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25 contests. He appeared in 11 playoff games, including five starts, averaging 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Hart enjoyed his experience with the Knicks and hopes to remain there for years to come.
“I love New York. I love the team. I love the coaching staff and the front office that we have. Obviously, that would be an ideal place for me, to just re-sign there,” he said. “Everything’s perfect off the court and on the court.”
However, Hart’s all-around skills will likely attract other suitors. His next contract could have a first-year salary in the $15-18MM range and it’s not far fetched he could get an even higher salary.
Hart would like to make a commitment in the “first day or two” of free agency. In his previous foray into free agency in 2021, Hart was a restricted free agent with the Pelicans. He signed a three-year, $37.92MM contract with a player option but it took weeks for everything to finalize.
“I kind of actually cried a little bit. It took like three weeks to get it done,” he said. “I was like, ‘Do people want me in the league?’ I don’t think this free agency will go that way.”