Knicks Backup Isaiah Hartenstein Proves He’s NBA Starter

Isaiah Hartenstein, Knicks

Getty Isaiah Hartenstein #55 of the New York Knicks reacts in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With the game still hanging in the balance, Isaiah Hartenstein came out of nowhere to save a New York Knicks possession twice which led to an OG Anunoby putback slam for a 91-99 lead.

It was the kind of play that mitigates the loss of Knicks starting center Mitchell Robinson to a season-ending ankle injury. It was also the kind of play that could cost the Knicks their backup center in the offseason.

Hartenstein grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds with 10 points and matched his career-best five blocks to spark the Knicks’ 116-100 win over the shorthanded Chicago Bulls on January 3 for their second straight win at home.

Hartenstein is grabbing rebounds like the way he’s clutching this opportunity to showcase he’s an NBA starting center-caliber player.

“That I can play this role. I’ve always had the confidence that I could play but I was never really in that situation. Before I finished games but now I’m consistently playing 30-plus minutes,” Hartenstein told reporters in the locker room when asked what he learned about himself during Robinson’s absence.

Isaiah Hartenstein Set to Earn Massive Raise

The Knicks are 7-6 since Robinson went down with the injury. Hartenstein is holding down the fort, averaging 10.0 rebounds, 7.8 points on 62.3% shooting, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks in 32.4 minutes. Twice he’s grabbed career-high rebounds in that span.

The 7-foot German-American center has emerged as a top-5 offensive rebounder in the league with 4.3 per game since the Knicks lost Robinson, who leads the league with 5.3 per game.

“I can keep building on that,” Hartenstein said. “We miss Mitch a lot. I’ll be happy when he comes back. What we’ve had before, that was special but I just got to keep going.”

If he keeps going with these monster rebounding and defensive efforts, Hartenstein will get paid this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Whether that is in New York or somewhere else will be one of the biggest questions Leon Rose will answer in the offseason.

Hartenstein is only 26 and is just scratching the surface of his potential. And he’s been more durable than Robinson. Hartenstein played all the games last season. Before coming to New York, he played 68 games as the Los Angeles Clippers’ Sixth Man the previous season, earning a meager $1.7 million salary.

Hartenstein’s current two-year deal worth $16 million with the Knicks has become one of the best-value contracts in the NBA. But a life-changing money is about to come.

Julius Randle-Jalen Brunson Show

After losing a combined 35 points between RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, the Knicks’ top stars Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson have carried the Knicks’ offense the past two games.

Randle led the Knicks with 35 points against the Bulls, two days after dropping 39 against the league’s top defensive team Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brunson, on the other hand, had 31 points and 13 assists, just one short of his career-high 14 assists he dished out against the Timberwolves.

OG Anunoby had a quiet 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting in his second game with the Knicks but his impact was loud in the plus-minus column. The Knicks outscored the Bulls by 35 points during his 35 minutes of playing time.


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