Isaiah Hartenstein initially thought he would continue to blossom with the New York Knicks as he felt wanted. After initial success in October, when he averaged nearly a double-double (9.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks), Hartenstein saw his role shrink.
Nowadays, Hartenstein is limited to backup minutes even when starting center Mitchell Robinson is out. He’s been playing away from his comfort zone, the high post, as New York coach Tom Thibodeau wants him to mimic Robinson’s rim-diving style to collar offensive rebounds.
Since Thibodeau shortened his rotation to nine on Dec. 4, Hartenstein averaged 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 points and 0.6 assists in 15.8 minutes over 25 games.
What he thought was a greener pasture turned out to be fool’s gold.
The Los Angeles Clippers have remorse as well after letting him go and instead used their midlevel exception on John Wall.
Now, the Clippers reportedly want their backup big man back.
“According to executives around the league, the Clippers are also interested in their former backup center Isaiah Hartenstein, who is now with the Knicks.
L.A. tried to re-sign Hartenstein last summer, but he went to New York for more money and because he felt he was wanted there. But unfortunately, not all free agent decisions pan out the way you originally envisioned them.
The Knicks have blatantly misused Hartenstein as a rim roller more than a playmaker, his previous role with the Clippers. He had a 20.5 assist percentage with the Clippers, compared with only 5.1 percent with the Knicks. Tom Thibodeau doesn’t know how to get the best out of him, while Ty Lue has already proved he can. Getting back together might be in everyone’s best interests.”Kevin O’Connor via The Ringer
Hartenstein was a big piece of the league’s second-best scoring second unit last season with the Clippers. His current team-friendly deal with the Knicks — $18 million over two years — is shaping up to be one of the Knicks’ best trade chips as Jericho Sims continue to emerge in Robinson’s absence.
Over his last two games, Sims has averaged 11 points and 7.5 rebounds. When all of the Knicks three centers are healthy, Sims is glued to the bench.
Trading away Hartenstein would open up a clear pathway for Sims to be Robinson’s chief backup. But in theory, the Knicks will only part ways with Hartenstein if they can get another big man as insurance, like Milwaukee Bucks’ Serge Ibaka.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo