‘Relentless’ Isaiah Hartenstein maintaining tenacity of Knicks’ frontcourt

Isaiah Hartenstein Knicks
Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin (11) guards against New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Dealing with a minutes restriction after returning from Achilles soreness, New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein is making the most out of the time he is getting on the floor. 

After missing two games because of the injury, he played in 15 and 16 minutes respectively on Saturday and Monday before playing 29 minutes during Tuesday night’s 118-103 victory over the Utah Jazz — four minutes more than the reported pitch count administered to him.

Granted, it was hard to sit him. The 25-year-old big man was dominant, recording 10 points with 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive boards, a pair of steals, and a block.

“I’m past it,” Hartenstein said of his injury earlier this week (h/t Mark W. Sanchez, New York Post). “It’s like normal tendinitis. It’s nothing like, ‘Oh, it’s the end of the world.’ You just manage it so it’s nothing crazy.” 

“Isaiah looked like he got some rhythm back and that’s huge for us,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau added following Tuesday night’s win.

Isaiah Hartenstein Knicks
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

But Hartenstein might have left the biggest mark on Jazz head coach, Will Hardy.

“I don’t live in this media market, I don’t know how much he’s talked about, but watching him on film, his value’s unbelievable,” Hardy said. “The guy’s everywhere. Even the ones he doesn’t get, he’s occupying so many people on the glass. He’s relentless. You have to match that on every single possession. And the one time you slip up, he taps it back out or he gets the rebound.”

That sort of tenacity is what has become commonplace this season for Thibodeau’s Knicks, who went 14-2 in January — the most wins in a month since going 14-0 in March 1994 and just one shy of a franchise record when they went 15-3 in December 1968.

Hartenstein has been invaluable since Mitchell Robinson went down with a season-ending ankle injury on Dec. 8, building a rotation with the increasingly versatile Precious Achiuwa, who came over from Toronto in the OG Anunoby deal. In his last 24 games (20 starts), Hartenstein has averaged 7.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, featuring six games with 15 or more boards. 

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