Knicks’ Soon-to-Be Free Agent Isaiah Hartenstein Catches Utah’s Attention

Will Hardy, Danny Ainge, Knicks

Getty Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge reacts to a play with coach Will Hardy.

This early, the New York Knicks‘ rising center and soon-to-be-unrestricted-free-agent Isaiah Hartenstein are drawing fans around the NBA.

One of them is Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy who praised Hartenstein after the Knicks routed them 118-103 on January 30 at Madison Square Garden.

Hardy spoke glowingly about Hartenstein as someone they do not have on their roster when playing a physical team like the Knicks.

“Physicality is hard to whip up out of thin air,” Hardy told reporters. “We’ve played physical teams and held our own. Everybody has to do it as a group on every possession and it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting physically. It’s exhausting mentally because when you don’t have one person who can just gobble up 15 defensive rebounds by themselves because of their size. It takes everybody and on any given possession, one person not doing their job can cost you the rebound.

“The Knicks are relentless [in] going to the glass. I think Hartenstein, I don’t live in this media market. I don’t know how much he’s talked about, but watching him on film, his value is unbelievable.

“The guy is everywhere. And even the ones he doesn’t get, he’s occupying so many people on the glass. He’s relentless. And so you have to match that on every single possession and the one time you slip up, he taps it back out or he gets the rebound.”

Hartenstein, who missed three games with soreness in his Achilles, finally played true to his form without his 25-minute restriction. The rising center was all over the place, delivering a complete line: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block.

Utah Jazz Loom as Threat to Sign Isaiah Hartenstein to Massive Deal

Hardy’s talking about Hartenstein’s value is noteworthy given the Jazz will have more than $50 million in cap space next summer.

Hartenstein, who is in the final year of his bargain $18 million, two-year deal, will command a massive raise in his next contract.

The Knicks have already given Mitchell Robinson a $60 million, four-year deal. Anywhere close to that given to a backup center will be a misallocation of their cap space.

Donte DiVincenzo Reveals Knicks’ Blueprint for Success

The Knicks capped a 14-2 run in January — their most wins in a month since going 14-0 in March 1994 — with a 118-103 rout of the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, January 30, at Madison Square Garden despite the rash of injuries to their starting frontcourt.

How did they achieve the unthinkable?

“One, I think we have a deep team, but two, I think it’s the blueprint that [Tom Thibodeau] has given us,” Donte DiVincenzo said via New York Post. “Guys can step up and play the roles without trying to do too much.

“We have an identity here, and everybody buys in and there’s a joy that we have with our team right now. Everybody is celebrating one another, but also, everyone is holding everyone accountable.”

DiVincenzo led the Knicks’ role players who are stepping up big-time during this surge. He hit a career-high 9 3-pointers en route to a 33-point performance on the eve of his birthday.

Jalen Brunson had his usual stellar numbers — 29 points and nine assists. But the Knicks as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Six Knicks scored in double figures as they sustained their dominant form even without their three starters — Julius Randle (dislocated shoulder), OG Anunoby (elbow inflammation) and Robinson, who has been out since December with an ankle injury, in their last two wins.

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