Josh Hart Says Blazers Won't Tank: 'We're Not Trying to Get' Victor Wembanyama

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVOctober 13, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 9: Josh Hart #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles the ball against the Sacramento Kings during a preseason game on October 9, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The new-look Portland Trail Blazers haven't exactly set the world on fire during the preseason, going 1-4 ahead of next week's start to the regular season.

But Josh Hart isn't sweating it.

"We're 0-0," he told reporters. "I don't think we're panicking. We're not trying to get Victor...whatever his name is."

Hart, of course, was referencing Victor Wembanyama, the top prospect in the 2023 NBA draft who looks like he might be a mix between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant, and a player who could set the league on fire.

The Blazers spent the 2022 offseason looking to rebuild the team around Damian Lillard and avoid a full-scale tank, hoping to remain in contention. The result was the addition of Hart, Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II and first-round pick Shaedon Sharpe. Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic were re-signed. Nassir Little and Justise Winslow return, offering solid wing depth.

Hart has impressed during training camp, earning the starting small forward position heading into the season despite plenty of competition:

Casey Holdahl @CHold

Chauncey Billups confirms <a href="https://twitter.com/AaronJFentress?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AaronJFentress</a>’ report that <a href="https://twitter.com/joshhart?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@joshhart</a> will start at small forward tonight and once the regular season starts

The 27-year-old also played well for the Blazers last season after being traded to the team in the CJ McCollum deal, averaging 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from three.

There would be little reason for the Blazers to tank this season. They've built a solid foundation around Lillard, and while they don't appear to have a team worthy of title contention, a playoff berth is more than feasible in the wide-open Western Conference.

Landing Wembanyama would be an excellent moment for the franchise. But it would mean that the current iteration of the Blazers failed miserably in the 2022-23 season.