Last winter, when Isaiah Hartenstein signed with the Knicks, he was marketed as a great facilitator who could span the floor, shoot threes, and defend the basket.
Hartenstein has been a good defensive presence through the first half of the season, but offensively he has lacked a finishing touch and has not been asked to be the type of distributor he was in his breakout season with the Clippers last year.
Hartenstein, who had a persistent achilles ailment earlier in the season, described his first half with the Knicks as “up and down” on Tuesday. “Some things are beyond my control, while others are under my power. There have been good and bad moments, but overall, we’re performing well as a team. That is the most crucial aspect.
There are things I can do better than what I am doing now, and that is my responsibility.
Hartenstein has appeared in all 41 games this season, and on Monday night, he received the nod over Jericho Sims to remain in the rotation as the backup center, with Obi Toppin’s injury recovery allowing Obi Toppin to rejoin to the rotation as the backup 4.
Isaiah Hartenstein reaches for a rebound during the Knicks’ victory against the Raptors.
But the loss against the Bucks was one of Hartenstein’s most frustrating games of the season. He grabbed four offensive rebounds, committed three fouls, and failed to score in 10 minutes after shooting 0-for-6 from the field. This featured a late third-quarter possession in which he missed three consecutive shots from inside the restricted area.
Hartenstein stated after practice as the Knicks prepared to play the Pacers, “Those are things that I can control, and that gives me confidence that I can do it better in the future or in the next game.” This is a quick solution. It’s not like a situation where I’m performing sophisticated stuff such as fadeaways, step-backs, or unusual things. That is something I am confident I can accomplish. I’ve done it before, so I’m not really concerned.”
The sequence occurred during a 10-0 Bucks run that helped them close a 17-point lead and get back into the game. Nonetheless, it has become something of a habit for Hartenstein this season.
As of Tuesday, 234 players had attempted at least 50 field goals from the restricted area. Hartenstein’s 54.1 field-goal percentage ranked 219th in the league (53-for-98). Hartenstein was ranked last among 63 centers in this group. Sims ranked first in this category, shooting 84.7 percent (50-for-59) in the restricted area.
Center Isaiah Hartenstein defends Tre Jones during the Knicks’ victory over the Spurs as Jones attempts a layup.
Hartenstein shot 72.8 percent from within the restricted area during the previous season.
In contrast, opponents shoot only 61 percent in the restricted area when Hartenstein is defending them, the sixth-best percentage among centers who have faced at least 300 field goal attempts.
Tom Thibodeau, evaluating Harteinstein’s performance, remarked, “The rim protection is excellent.” Having the ability to play away from the basket obviously expands our offensive options. Putting pressure on the rim, offensive rebounding has been outstanding. Utilize your assets.”
Except that the Knicks have not utilized Hartenstein in the same capacity in which he excelled last season, when he averaged 2.4 assists per game as a savvy facilitator. This season, he averages 0.8 assists per game and has been utilized for spacing more.
“It’s been a little challenging, but at the end of the day, it’s all about what the team needs,” Hartenstein said of the role adjustments. “Everyone makes concessions in certain facets of their game. Not everyone is playing to their full potential, but that is the case for any team. … Now I must basically forfeit one of my finest qualities. Whatever the squad needs, however. We have three players that are quite dominant with the ball, and I believe that is how we’ve been winning. It is difficult to say much while we are winning.”