Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks and Cavaliers are gearing up for their first-round playoff series kicking off this weekend. Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell took to Instagram to hype himself up and Knicks wing Josh Hart had some, er, unique comments.

First things first, this isn’t a real beef. Hart and Mitchell follow each other on Instagram and were 2017 NBA Draft classmates. Though never teammates, they’ve practically grown up together as pros. There’s a clear friendship or otherwise respectful relationship where Hart can troll Mitchell with an f-bomb.

But such is the heat of the NBA playoffs, especially this series. The Knicks are out to prove they’re no longer a punchline. The Cavs want to show they can build sustained success without LeBron James.

Plus, have we already forgotten that the Knicks were serious Mitchell suitors when the Jazz were trying to trade him? They just rightfully balked at an asking price of RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and more. Cut to the Knicks signing Jalen Brunson in free agency, and his 48 points in Cleveland last month were practically a playoff dress rehearsal.

Not to mention, Hart is a swingman who plays with a unique intensity. He can be a bully on defense and plays in the paint much larger than his 6-foot-5 frame. It thus makes sense why, out of all the Knicks, Hart would be the one to playfully try and get into Mitchell’s head.

Will it work? Well, Game 1 of this first-round series tips off on Saturday at 6 p.m., so we’ll soon find out.

More importantly, now that Hart has had his fun, it’s time for the Knicks to focus. Don’t worry about Julius Randle’s availability and just have a strong series. Show the Cavs and the NBA that New York basketball is back for good.

And most important of all, show the New York native Mitchell that his hometown team can not only beat him, but doesn’t need him.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.