Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Mikal Bridges crossed the bridge to complete the Nova gang, beginning an earnest Knicks pursuit of the championship.

Leon Rose pried Bridges away from Brooklyn on Tuesday night by finally sacrificing his draft picks and going all-in with a squad that now features four members of Villanova’s championship teams.

The trade was a surprise for several reasons, most notably because the Nets, who have lived in the shadow of their rival’s popularity, were seen around the league as too reluctant to assist the Knicks’ championship pursuit.

But Sean Marks’ construction was bottoming out after their failures with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Mikal Bridges of the Brooklyn Nets reacts in front of the Knicks bench. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Bridges became their best player by default but demonstrated last season he wasn’t good enough to carry the torch on a playoff squad.

Brooklyn’s haul for Bridges — four unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027, 2029, 2031), a 2025 protected first rounder rerouted from the Bucks, a 2028 unprotected pick swap and a 2025 second-round pick — was hefty considering his shortcomings in the top role.

The Knicks kept their picks — 24th and 25th overall — for Wednesday’s draft.

The Knicks had been sitting on their chest of picks for years waiting for the right opportunity, stopping just short of completing a deal two years ago for Donovan Mitchell.

Now they believe they finally found the right target because of Bridges’ two-way versatility, his durability, his kinship with the roster core and after the 27-year-old reportedly made it known he preferred the Knicks.

Bridges is on a team-friendly deal with two years and roughly $48 million remaining.

From Rose, who has been cautious throughout his tenure, the trade is the message that he’s going for it after consecutive trips to the conference semis.

Bojan Bogdanovic, who recently underwent foot and wrist surgeries, was dealt by the Knicks to match salaries.

In other words, they didn’t give up one player who was projected as a significant part of the rotation.

Bridges doesn’t need to be the No. 1 with the Knicks, who have two All-Stars — Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle — plus a stout supporting cast that helped lift Tom Thibodeau’s squad to the second-best record in the East.

Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) after a 3-pointer during the second half when the Brooklyn Nets played the Memphis Grizzlies Monday, March 4, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Bridges also clearly desired to join his college friends on the Knicks.

Josh Hart even turned Bridges’ jealousy into a meme last season while watching the Nova trio — Brunson, Hart and Donte DiVincenzo — succeed at MSG with much attention and fanfare.

The wing’s arrival also comes as other big questions are being asked about the Knicks’ roster.

OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein are both unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Knicks can go up to the max to re-sign Anunoby, but are limited to a four-year, $72.5 million offer for Hartenstein.

Mikal Bridges is another Villanova product joining the Knicks. Jason Szenes / New York Post

Assuming Anunoby returns, Bridges will likely replace DiVincenzo in the starting lineup. The involved players seemed to be excited.

After the trade was leaked Tuesday, Hart tweeted, “YOOOOO @mikal_bridges FINALLY HIT MY LINE!!!!!” and “YO WE F–KIN LIT.”

Brunson kept it simple with an “omg” tweet.

Bridges added, “this is crazy lol.”

Earlier this season, Bridges was a guest on Brunson and Hart’s podcast, “The Roommates Show,” and the conversation was steered by Hart to the Knicks’ immense popularity compared to the Nets.

Jalen Brunson will now be Knicks teammates with Mikal Bridges. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“No matter how big the Nets get, that’s Knicks city,” Hart said. “I was in LA. No matter how good the Clippers are going to be, LA is always going to be Lakers.”

Bridges mostly nodded along, looking annoyed at the reality of generational fandom in New York. Hart then said the “vibes got to be tough” in Brooklyn given the fan dynamic, and asked if Bridges ever looked across the river to play.

That was Bridges’ chance to emphatically declare his allegiance to the Nets and defend their fans, and he instead made a joke about looking at Brooklyn from across the river because he lives in Manhattan.

That was followed by awkward silence, and, months later, a trade to the Knicks.

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#Knicks #acquire #Mikal #Bridges #Nets #stunning #NBA #trade

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