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How Isaiah Hartenstein Helps Knicks, Builds on Career-Best Season

Having switched coasts after a breakout season, Isaiah Hartenstein hinted that the lure of depth and need attracted him to the New York Knicks.

The New York Knicks need to rebound: the literal stat was actually a strong point for them last season (tied for fourth at 46.2 per game), but from a disappointing 37-win tally that served as the frustrating follow-up to a surprise fourth-place run in the Eastern Conference. 

Isaiah Hartenstein's basketball career knows a thing or two about both definitions.

Hartenstein's height, listed at an even seven feet, makes him a natural interior option, but his resiliency and responses to adversity might be even more impressive. Originally entering the league as a second-round pick of Houston's, Hartenstein's original impact came in the NBA G League, notably winning the Finals MVP with the Rockets' affiliate in Rio Grande Valley (previously earned by Toronto All-Star Pascal Siakam). 

Success at the higher level proved harder to come by, with a waiving in Houston giving way to brief tenures in Denver and Cleveland. Hartenstein's moment of truth came last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he put up season-long career-highs in nearly every major category (including 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds), a season that included a brief appearance in the Western Conference's Play-In Tournament affairs. 

Hartenstein's reward was a $16 million deal from the Knicks for the next seasons, where he's expected to provide padding behind fellow new contract earner Mitchell Robinson. 

"I think it was a spot where I felt wanted," Hartenstein said. "I thought I could bring something that they couldn't have, to help them win. It was a good situation for me. I think coming in and bringing in something different that they didn't have before. Mitch does great stuff but me just bringing something different on the offensive end and then defensively, I was really good at rim protecting last year."

To Hartenstein's point, the Knicks did finish just outside the top ten in defensive rebounding. There's also an understandable hype around Hartenstein's perhaps developing ability to shoot from deep, as he sank 14-of-30 triple attempts last season after putting in only four in his first three NBA campaigns. 

That diverse attack, spread through several NBA locales and even a whole other league, is something Hartenstein hopes to bring to Madison Square Garden on a nightly basis.

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“What a lot of people don’t get, it’s not like I’m learning how to shoot. Before coming into the NBA, it was more of (playing the) four, shooting,” he said, per the New York Post. “In Houston, I played my role. It wasn’t to shoot, it was pick-and-roll. When I was in the G-League, I hit eight threes in one game, so it’s not like I’m learning how to shoot the ball. I think that’s one thing that me and Thibs talked about, helping spread the floor.”

Ironically, it's comparisons to a previous Knicks disappointment that have Hartenstein truly geared for his first season in Manhattan, as some have compared his skill set to that of Joakim Noah. While Noah's NBA career more or less fizzled out with the Knicks, Hartenstein is more than happy to accept the comparison to the former All-NBA first-teamer.

In some areas, in fact, Hartenstein feels he's already surpassed him. 

"He was one of the guys whom I didn't know how good he could pass until I watched him," Hartenstein said. "That's something I can definitely bring to the team, a lot of energy. I don't think there (are) a lot of players in the league that consistently will play with the same passion and energy as I do. So I think that's a good comparison, just a little better shot." 

The Knicks open their preseason slate on Oct. 4 against the Detroit Pistons at home.


Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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