Knicks’ Josh Hart marvels at ‘work’ Jalen Brunson puts into his game

Knicks’ Josh Hart marvels at ‘work’ Jalen Brunson puts into his game

Josh Hart has known Jalen Brunson for nearly a decade, and knows him well.

The two won a national title together at Villanova in 2016, and both their numbers hang in the rafters at The Finneran Pavilion.

The video of Brunson reacting to the Knicks’ acquisition of Hart last month went viral as the point guard learned his close friend would be joining him in New York.

So believe Hart when he talks about Brunson after the player at the center of what could be the best Knicks’ season in a decade returned from injury to lead New York to a 116-110 win over the Nuggets on Saturday.

“It’s really dope for me to see, obviously, knowing him since 2013, watching his progression, watching him grow just as a friend,” Hart said. “It’s amazing cause I’ve seen the work behind the scenes. And he knows this, and I have the most respect for him as almost any NBA guy or basketball player in general because he continues to grind, continues to work.

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson Getty Images

“I think the biggest thing that sums it up is he’s about to go into free agency [last summer], fortunate enough to be signing the biggest contract of his career that’s gonna set his family up for a long time and we’re both at Villanova and he’s in [the gym] at 6 or 7 a.m. He beat me there. And this is someone who, like I said, about to sign an unbelievable contract.

“Still ready to work, still wanting to work, still hungry to work. For me, man, it’s just amazing to see. I’ve seen the work. And that’s what he does.”

Indeed, Brunson would ink a four-year, $104 million deal with the Knicks.

It was questioned by some at the time, since Brunson had only been Luka Doncic’s sidekick with the Mavericks.

As the Garden crowd serenaded Brunson with M-V-P chants on Saturday, though, it was hard not to imagine Leon Rose feeling good about his investment.

“Honestly at first, I was kinda mad [at the chants],” Hart said. “I’m like, bro, minute left in the game, he’s shooting his free throws, they’re yelling. I wouldn’t mind them being a little quiet when he’s going to shoot, you know what I mean? Maybe during his dribbles chant it or something.”

No matter, Brunson sunk both free throws to put a seal on the win.

Any lingering questions about the foot injury that kept him out of five of six games are more than answered heading into Monday’s game against the Timberwolves at the Garden.


“In Sacramento, I thought I was good to go, but I wasn’t,” Brunson said. “I was a little worried going into [Saturday].”

It took all of a few minutes for that worry to melt away as Brunson had scored 16 points before coming out of the game.

“He started the game, probably more adrenaline than anything else,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Little rust but he got a rhythm late. It was good. The way we’re playing right now, just concentrate. Whatever gets going, think ahead, try to take advantage of the right things. Play smart, play together, be connected on offense and defense.

“That’s probably the biggest thing about Jalen, he’s a connector.”

The communication aspect with Brunson on the floor, Thibodeau said, is much improved.

“This game is all about thinking and reacting. He’s great at it,” Thibodeau said. “That’s probably his greatest strength. We can talk about his physical skills, which he has, obviously. You can’t do what he’s doing without physical skills, but his ability to think and react is tremendous.”

Julius Randle put it more simply.

“JB’s a hooper,” he said.

Again and again, that’s been proven right.