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Damian Lillard: Josh Hart Trade ‘Hard’ Because ‘We Formed a Friendship’

Changes are never easy, even if you’re an NBA superstar.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Just ahead of tip-off against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, the Portland Trail Blazers traded wing Josh Hart to the New York Knicks for Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk, and a lottery protected first-round pick. The move was ultimately about acquiring draft capital in exchange for a player who was likely to opt out this summer. Whether that pick remains with Portland through the trade deadline is yet to be seen.

On the business end, the move makes a fair bit of sense, but that doesn’t stop it from stinging for Hart’s former teammates. After the Trail Blazers dispatched the Warriors, 125-122, star point guard Damian Lillard spoke with reporters about what it means to lose someone like Hart.

It’s tough. I think, for everybody who’s been here the entire time that I’ve been here, one of the hardest parts is when you form a friendship, form a bond with somebody, and everybody’s looking at ‘What are they doing on the court? What can they do to get better?’ You know, everybody else is looking at it from a business standpoint and how to improve and all these things, but we get up and spend time with each other every day. We on the plane together, we in the practice facility, we in the training room, we in the locker room, we in the cold tub, we in the steam room. We spend more time with each other than we do with our family.

That makes it hard. And especially with Josh because we actually formed a friendship and you just get used to people being around. So, any time that happens it’s tough, but I think, for him, just knowing that he is a good dude, he’s a good person, I know that he liked being in Portland, he wanted to be in Portland and, you know, you get people to come here and know that they want to be here but the business takes over is just unfortunate. Like I said, it’s part of the business. It’s the thing that I, I guess, struggle with the most about it, but it’s part of it and that’s what we signed up for.

Hart was acquired by the Trail Blazers at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline in the deal that sent CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans. He spent a full calendar year in Portland, spanning two seasons, where he became somewhat of a fan favorite for his personality off the court and tenacity on it. Although a trade had long been in the cards, he will be missed.