Isaiah Hartenstein is richer and a winner as Knicks backup center

Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks

Isaiah Hartenstein became $700,000 richer after he helped the New York Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night to stop a three-game skid.

Hartestein hit two bonuses — reaching 40 wins and playing 1,350 minutes — worth $350,000 each. It is increasingly likely he’ll make a clean sweep of what was deemed ‘unlikely incentives’ when he signed the $16 million, two-year deal with the Knicks in the offseason. He stands to earn the last $350,000 bonus if the Knicks make the playoffs.

Not bad for a backup center who only earned $1.7 million last season.

Hartenstein left the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason with a heavy heart after his former team essentially chose John Wall over him for the taxpayer mid-level exception.

As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise for the 24-year-old German-American center.

Wall is no longer in Los Angeles, while Hartenstein is thriving in New York.

“I mean, I was open to taking it [Clippers’ taxpayer MLE), but I think I’m now in a good situation where the fans are great in New York, playing at Madison Square Garden every night is great, and I think I’m a part of what we’ve been doing here in winning.”

Isaiah Hartenstein via Clutchpoints

But it wasn’t easy at first, as Hartenstein candidly admitted earlier in the season that he is being used differently. Playing out of his comfort zone, which is the high post, and recovering from an inflamed Achilles impeded his progress.

Hart was asked to clone Mitchell Robinson — dive to the rim and rebound.

As the Knicks season went deep, Hartenstein has thrived, fully adjusted to a new role.

“I think I just learned through ups and downs, getting adjusted to something different. Just different role, adjusting my game. I think I’ve been doing a good job of doing that. In the long run, I think it’ll help my career, just being able to adjust to stuff where I was more comfortable doing different stuff. But now I gotta do whatever the team needs to win, and I think I’ve been doing a good job of that.”

Isaiah Hartenstein via Clutchpoints

With his comfort level going up, so was Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s trust in him.

Against Anthony Davis and the Lakers, Hartenstein earned the job of closing the game ahead of a healthy Robinson.

He did not disappoint as he pulled down 11 rebounds and had two steals while holding Davis to 2 of 8 field goals as the primary defender. The Lakers star shot 8 of 18 overall for only 18 points, well below his 25.9-point scoring average.

Hartenstein is averaging a career-high 19.5 minutes in his first season with the Knicks. He’s scoring (4.9 points) and initiating the offense (0.9 assists) less compared to his breakout season with the Clippers when he averaged 8.3 points and 2.4 assists as part of one of the best second units in the league, but he’s doing a phenomenal job in his role that has impacted winning in New York.

Hartenstein is grabbing a career-high 6.6 rebounds, 2.7 coming on the offensive glass. He’s leading the league in boxouts with 2.2 per game and third in offensive rebound percentage (13.1) behind Atlanta’s Clint Capela (14.9) and Utah rookie Walker Kessler (13.4), who are both starters.

The Clippers have unlocked Hartenstein. But the Knicks are raising his ceiling.

“It’s amazing. I mean, every night, it feels like a playoff game. The fans are great, especially when you’re doing good, but they’re also gonna tell you when you suck. I think that’s good thing, though. I think it keeps you motivated and you know you’ll hear the honest truth from them and so I’ve been liking it. It’s been fun. Every game’s been an experience.”

Isaiah Hartenstein via Clutchpoints

You only grow when you go out of your comfort zone.

Hartenstein has grown as a player and is richer in experience and wealth.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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