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Bridges calls joining Knicks in trade ‘surreal’



Bridges calls joining Knicks in trade ‘surreal’

NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges called it “surreal” to be joining the New York Knicks after the club sent five picks and a pick swap to the Brooklyn Nets to reunite the forward with three of his college teammates from Villanova’s national title team in 2016.

Bridges, who was introduced at the Knicks’ practice facility in suburban New York, said he’d been in Dallas in late June to work out with Nets teammate Dorian Finney-Smith and was hanging out with his friend, Grizzlies swingman Desmond Bane, when the trade happened.

“[Bane] was just screaming from afar, like, ‘Yo, did you see?'” Bridges recalled as reports of the trade reverberated through social media that night.

Shortly after that, Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo collectively Facetimed Bridges to celebrate the deal, with Hart taking a screenshot of the call. The foursome won it all at Villanova in 2016, and then Bridges, Brunson and DiVincenzo won a second national championship together in 2018.

Bridges, who turns 28 in August, grew up a little more than 100 miles down the road in Pennsylvania. He described the trade as a full-circle moment of sorts, referencing the 2018 NBA draft, in which he thought he might become a Knick. New York had the ninth pick that year, and took Kevin Knox, while Bridges went one selection later.

“It’s surreal. Coming here, it makes me feel like a young kid again, with all the memories. When I think about basketball when I was young, and the old school, it was always the Knicks,” he said. “That’s what you think about. MSG. The New York song. All that stuff.”

Asked where the trade put New York in relation to the Celtics, who just won their NBA-best 18th title, Bridges said it was too soon to know.

“I’ve been in the building for all of 40 minutes,” he said as Knicks president Leon Rose looked on from the front row of the news conference.

But the forward, who averaged 21 points over a season and a half as the No. 1 option in Brooklyn, did say: “I think I fit in really well.”

He cited his rugged commitment to defense and mentioned being excited to play alongside fellow standout defender OG Anunoby, who just signed a massive five-year, $212 million deal in free agency to stay with the Knicks.

And Bridges, an iron man who’s yet to miss a game in his NBA career, sounded ecstatic over the opportunity to play for Tom Thibodeau, who’s widely seen as the league’s most demanding coach.

“I see all the jokes,” Bridges said with a smile. “But it’s great. Thibs is a great coach, and I think one thing: Who doesn’t want to play all the time? That’s just who he is, and how structured he is.”

He said he’s built for whatever Thibodeau might ask of him in terms of playing time. He recalled a time in 2022 that former Suns coach Monty Williams had him guard Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, arguably the league’s fastest player, for 50 minutes.

“And I was sick. Sick as a bat. Literally out there, couldn’t breathe,” Bridges said. “I was on a frickin’ chair after we won, laid out, and I don’t think Monty knew I was sick, either.”

Expectations will be high for the Knicks, who are coming off a run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. With Bridges joining the roster, and Anunoby signing on to remain in orange and blue, the Knicks, coming off a 50-win campaign, have their best championship odds this century. Brunson, Bridges, Hart, DiVincenzo, Anunoby and Julius Randle, their two-time All-NBA forward, are all under the age of 30.

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