Knicks: Isaiah Hartenstein’s departure hit him just as hard as the fans

Apr 14, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) and New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have a massive situation to solve with the departure of Isaiah Hartenstein. Losing his rebounding, playmaking qualities, and overall production was a massive blow, but the front office simply couldn’t match the three-year, $87 million deal he secured from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Impact of Hartenstein’s Exit

Hartenstein will leave significant stats behind, averaging 7.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and a .644 field goal percentage over 75 games. The chemistry the big man developed with his former teammates was palpable, but he will transition over to Oklahoma City, which runs a faster style of ball and leans heavily on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Having been accustomed to playing alongside a strong point guard like Jalen Brunson, Hartenstein will face a different pace with his new club.

Mar 12, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) slaps hands with guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

“If I’m being honest it was hard,” he said. “I love my teammates out in New York, I really appreciate everything [head coach TomThibodeau and Leon [Rose] did for me, and the fans in New York showed a lot of love.”

Knicks’ Financial Decisions and Future Plans

Hartenstein might’ve accepted a lesser deal to stick in New York if Oklahoma City wasn’t already in a position to push deep into the playoffs. They have a fantastic young roster with money to spend, but the Knicks couldn’t match the salary per season and prioritized acquiring Mikal Bridges and extending OG Anunoby.

“But from afar I always saw how the culture was since they’ve been down in OKC, they established the culture and the style of play, it’s something that’s really exciting to me and I think I can really expand my game here.”

Searching for Solutions in the Center Position

The Knicks now face the tall task of reinforcing the roster with another quality center, especially since they can’t rely on Mitchell Robinson to be the primary starter for a full season. He’s only played over 70 games once in his entire career, which is problematic.

The Knicks have been linked to Walker Kessler of the Utah Jazz and Nick Richards of the Charlotte Hornets, but they may have to settle for a cheaper alternative or look to the free agent market where they could bring in Precious Achiuwa to round out the forward and center positions.

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