Playoffs

Isaiah Hartenstein admits it was difficult decision to leave Knicks for Thunder in free agency

Isaiah Hartenstein admits it was difficult decision to leave Knicks for Thunder in free agency

When the Knicks decided to sign Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency two years ago, it was expected that he’d come in and serve as a complimentary big man off the bench alongside Mitchell Robinson.

With Robinson’s continued struggles with the injury-bug, though, Hartenstein ended up taking on an even bigger role than expected and he established himself as a key piece in their rotation moving forward.

The 26-year-old received an extended run in the starting lineup for the first time in his six-year NBA career this past season and he took full advantage of it, posting some of his best numbers across the board.

Hartenstein was a key piece in New York’s deep postseason run and he set himself up nicely heading into the offseason, averaging 7.8 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 64 percent from the field.

The Knicks made a strong push to run things back and keep him in the Big Apple long-term, but with more money to be made elsewhere, he decided to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder on a three-year deal.

Hartenstein broke down that difficult decision while speaking with reporters at his introductory press conference on Saturday afternoon.

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

“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.”

Hartenstein expects a seamless transition and he’s excited about how reigning Coach of the Year winner Mark Daigneault will utilize him on both ends of the floor in their system.

One of the biggest things he's looking forward to is playing alongside dynamic young big man Chet Holmgren, who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting after a stellar showing last season.

“I’m really excited to see that,” he said. “I may have to do a little more dirty work so he can chill a bit, but it’s really exciting, he’s one of the most talented bigs in the NBA and I think me and him on the court together is going to be very deadly.”

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