Knicks' Isaiah Hartenstein on free agency: 'I love it here, hopefully we'll figure something out'

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Knicks' Isaiah Hartenstein on free agency: 'I love it here, hopefully we'll figure something out'

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein tells HoopsHype Senior NBA Insider Michael Scotto he wants to re-sign in free agency.

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein tells HoopsHype Senior NBA Insider Michael Scotto he wants to re-sign in free agency.

New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein has made the most of his chance as a starter and is earning himself a nice pay raise this summer as one of the top unrestricted free-agent centers on the market.

Several executives who spoke with HoopsHype believe Hartenstein could command around $13 million a year in free agency this summer, roughly the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

While averaging career-highs in minutes (24.9), rebounds (8.3), steals (1.1), and following a season-high nine assists in a win versus the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden, Hartenstein spoke to HoopsHype about his free agency future and journey to this point.

Hartenstein discussed falling in the draft unexpectedly, how his time with the Los Angeles Clippers changed his career trajectory, working with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau behind the scenes to improve defensively, how Nikola Jokic helped him as a passer, and why he’d like to re-sign with the Knicks this summer.

When you came into the league as a second-round pick, did you have a chip on your shoulder?

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Isaiah Hartenstein: Yeah. It was a frustrating time, especially going into the draft. I was projected a lot higher, and then, on draft night, I got red-flagged for something (an injury) I didn’t have. That was frustrating. I think everything happened for a reason. I think I was put in a situation that maybe at the time I didn’t really get it, but I was blessed to learn from Hall of Famers Chris Paul, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and from a big’s standpoint, I had Nenê to help me a lot and Tyson Chandler who was helping me a lot. At the time, I feel like you don’t really get what’s happening, but I think being consistent and changing my mental approach helped a lot.

How did that opportunity with the Los Angeles Clippers change things for you?

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IH: It was big. I think going in there was also another hard battle because I was going in there on a training camp deal. Jerry West had a lot of confidence in me. Ty Lue was great. He really let me play my game, and I learned a lot from Jay Larranaga, who was my day-to-day coach. He really helped me a lot, building confidence and learning the game more. It was a lot of work. I had to get better at my flaws, which was defensive at the time. That summer, it was a lot of watching Draymond (Green), how he plays defense, and how he roams and helps people out. I think that probably helped me the most.

Since coming to New York, what have you thought of your tenure with the Knicks?

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IH: It’s been great. I feel like the first period was an adjusting period. If you’re not one of the top two guys on a team, you’ll always have to adjust on a team unless you’re in a perfect situation. I think coming here, I adjusted. Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) helped me a lot, especially on the defensive end. I was good with the Clippers defensively, but Thibs really helped me with that, and it probably took me to another step.

He’d show me film and talk me through practice on how to prepare. I think that’s what he does well, how he prepares for games. I think a lot of people don’t see that he’s probably in his office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and probably earlier than that with how he prepares. He also gives little details with any questions I have, especially defensively, to help me out.

What’s allowed you to have a career year this season with the Knicks?

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

IH: I think I’m gaining more trust from my teammates. I feel like now it’s kind of going back to how I was playing with the Clippers. We have a lot of unselfish guys. Jalen Brunson‘s playmaking this year has not been talked about enough. How he’s been playmaking this year has made my life easier. I think that’s been big for us, especially with how much they trap him and how well he’s been making reads.

You’ve also been a guy who can make plays for others, so where did you learn that skill?

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IH: Growing up, I didn’t like it at the time, but my dad would always tell me in the third quarter that I was only allowed to pass the ball. I wasn’t allowed to shoot. I didn’t get why he was doing it, but looking at it now, I’m grateful that he did that. I also played with Nikola Jokic for a little bit of time and learned from him how he reads defenses.

What are your thoughts on free agency coming up?

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IH: I’m focused on what I’m doing right now. I know I’ve put myself in a great position to get a little upgrade. Right now, I’m focused on the Knicks. I love it here, and hopefully, we’ll figure something out, but at the end of the day, business is business.

Scotto: If money is equal, you’d stay?

IH: Yeah.

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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