Reggie Jackson with a shout out to Isaiah Hartenstein pic.twitter.com/JZ2pe8vk5H— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) July 5, 2022
Last season was a breakout year for the 7’0”, 250 lbs Hartenstein, who recently signed a two-year, $16.7M contract with New York.
In 68 games for Los Angeles, the 24-year-old averaged 8.3 points, 4.9 boards, and 2.4 assists in 17.9 minutes per game. He attempted only 30 three-pointers but made 47% of them. He scored a career-high 19 points (and added seven rebounds) against the Grizzlies and had a five-block game against the Rockets, but his best performance came in a November win against Portland, when he logged 14 points and three dimes in 17 minutes.
By December, Clippers coach Ty Lue was singing his praises: “He amazed me by the way he passed the basketball, his reads, and his instincts with the basketball in his hands and so you don’t really see that a lot from a guy who’s 6-11, 7 foot, to be able to make instinctive plays like he can.”
And the admiration was mutual:
Isaiah Hartenstein called Tyronn Lue the best coach he's ever played for and the first coach who has truly believed and bought into him as a player.— (@FlyByKnite) March 4, 2022
The Eugene, Oregon native was selected 43rd by the Houston Rockets in the 2017 NBA Draft, did a short stint in Denver, and had last played in Cleveland before joining the Clips. The seven-footer found himself as the odd-giant-out in Ohio, with a Cavs roster that already had 6’10” center Jarrett Allen, 6’11” forward Lauri Markkanen, 6’11” forward Evan Mobley, and 6’8” Kevin Love.
“I talked with Cleveland, they just had a lot of bigs,” Hartenstein told The Athletic. “I didn’t want to be in a situation where I’m on a team that I really had no chance of playing. I mean, you’re paying Jarrett Allen I think it was $100 million. You just drafted a guy No. 2 or 3. It’s hard to then get in front of that.”
As a Clipper, Hartenstein proved his talent as a back-up to Ivica Zubac and stood out as the best passer among their centers. “I think I’ve learned different stuff from different people. I mean, even playing with (Nikola) Jokić has helped me with my passing. So I think just learning...from whoever I can will just help my career.” Hartenstein has also credited Serge Ibaka, Tyson Chandler, and Paul Millsap as mentors on his NBA journey.
Last year the Clippers paid Hartenstein $1.72M, making him the league’s 414th best-paid player. Isaiah had expressed interest in returning to the Clippers, but after grinding for four tours in the NBA, his great progress last season had earned him a bigger payday. The Clips wanted to keep Hartenstein but were financially limited after signing John Wall.
The Knicks are coached by rim-protection-fanatic Tom Thibodeau and were eager to lay out the cash. According to Hoopshype.com, Isaiah will be earning 351.35 percent more this season than in 2021/22.
“We are very excited to welcome Isaiah Hartenstein to the Knicks family,” said Knicks team president Leon Rose via press release. ”He’s a versatile big man who impacts the game on both ends of the floor and who plays with a passion and energy that is contagious.”
The Knicks didn’t have to go far to do their due diligence on Hartenstein. Isaiah is represented by Creative Artists Agency and his agent is Aaron Mintz. CAA is, of course, the house that Leon Rose built, and Mintz represents Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, and the aforementioned Jackson.
In New York, Isaiah is expected to play with the second unit again, this time behind the $60 million dollar man, Mitchell Robinson. Don’t be surprised if Hartenstein challenges the resident Blockness Monster for minutes, however. The new arrival is more of an offensive threat and no slouch on the other end, either.
“Defensively, he’s one of Thibs’ types of guys,” Ty Lue told the NY Post during Summer League. “He can switch at the 5 position, good in the drops. He’s very athletic and so he can do a lot of different things.”
Here’s an incredible deep dive by Ben Ritholtz for Knicks Film School:
A long series of clips reminding you that Isaiah Hartenstein is really excellent in drop coverage. https://t.co/BtwMqovrnG— Rit Holtzman (@BenRitholtzNBA) July 25, 2022
Hartenstein took a less-conventional route to the NBA. In 2008, the Hartenstein’s moved to Germany, where Isaiah’s father Florian played professionally, and Isaiah got the basketball bug while abroad. Forgoing college, he played for the Artland Dragons, Žalgiris Kaunas, and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being drafted by Houston.
“I thought he would be better off staying in Europe,” Florian Hartenstein told Malika Andrews in 2017. “You can do a lot more skill work, and there’s always a slight risk for big men who play only at the [center] position in college. And we just thought it was a better fit. I mean, it’s different for every player, but in his case, we thought he was better off playing against men.”
You can’t dispute the decision, considering the results. Basketball-Reference has their 2022-23 projections up, and they predict Hartenstein to average 16.6 points, 10 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes. If that prediction comes true, Knicks fans will be very pleased indeed.
I’m stoked to see what the giant German will do in the paint for the Knicks this season. Welcome to New York, Isaiah!