If ever there was a moment with the potential to flip the script for a struggling club, it was New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein’s game-deciding block against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
With the Knicks wearing a four-game losing streak like a dunce cap coming into the contest and clinging to a 105-103 lead as the clock hurdled toward 00:00, New York’s top offseason target Donovan Mitchell — who landed in Cleveland amid Leon Rose’s refusal to give the Utah Jazz the draft compensation they sought — was called upon to send the game into OT.
But after he broke away from Julius Randle on the perimeter and made a beeline toward the tin, Hartenstein stepped up, literally and figuratively, to deny the three-time All-Star and darkhorse MVP candidate at the basket.
Despite the heroics, Hartenstein put the spotlight on his shortcomings and the need to get better in the wake of the win.
Isaiah Hartenstein Gets Real on His Uneven Performance With the New York Knicks
During his postgame media availability, Hartenstein wasn’t exactly celebrating his denial of Mitchell or his strong play overall down the stretch. Rather, he lamented the fact that such occurrences have suddenly become the exception for him as opposed to the rule.
“It’s kind of what I came here for,” Hartenstein said, via Yahoo! Sports. “I know myself. I’m not playing as good as I’m supposed to be playing. I feel like I’m letting the fans down, the city down a little bit. But I’m just going to keep getting better because I know I can do it. So, it’s just trying to get better and represent New York.”
Hartenstein isn’t being overly dramatic with his less-than-flowery assessment of his season to date; the struggle is real.
For the year, the Knicks are 3.1 points per 100 possessions better when he has been on the bench compared to when he plays. And his individual stat line of 4.9 points and 0.7 blocks per game is multiple rungs below what he was able to do in 2021-22.
In 68 games for the Clipeprs last season, Hartenstein averaged 8.3 PPG and 1.1 BPG. Meanwhile, opponents’ field-goal percentages dropped by an average of 10.3% on attempts within six feet of the hoop when he was the closest defender. That number is down to 5.4% this season.
Moreover, his own conversion rate within three feet of the basket has dropped from 75.4% a year ago to 57.5% this season, and his three-point percentage has plummeted from 46.7% to 24.2%.
Could Hartenstein Get Traded Already?
The presence of both Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson on the Knicks’ roster has been weird, given the crossover in their respective skill sets (not to mention the fact that you probably shouldn’t be paying a backup pivot $8 million per annum). Hartenstein’s lackluster effort so far has made the situation even more of a head-scratcher.
Consequently, some are already prodding the Knicks to move on from the former Clipper just few, short months into his first year with the club.
Wrote Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale:
I billed him as one of the best signings, bar none, from this past offseason. But the fit isn’t great. New York’s offense doesn’t accentuate his greatest strengths, and this roster needs a more constant presence on the defensive glass from its bigs.