Isaiah Hartenstein

New York Notes: Simmons, Claxton, Randle, Knicks Centers

Health and confidence are the primary reasons Ben Simmons has performed well lately for the Nets, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

After missing all of last season due to mental health issues and later a herniated disc in his back, which required surgery in May, Simmons had a slow start to the 2022/23 campaign, averaging just 5.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 44.4% from the floor and 46.7% from the line through nine games (27.3 MPG). He also missed five games while dealing with knee soreness and swelling.

However, over the past six games (31.1 minutes), Simmons has started to look more like his old self, averaging 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 82.0% from the field and 61.1% from the charity stripe. The 26-year-old swingman still isn’t 100 percent yet, according to Lewis, but he’s clearly making progress.

Healthy. Finally got his legs under him. He was off for two years. Y’all won’t even give him a chance. Y’all want to criticize him after every f–king game,” Markieff Morris said. “But the guy didn’t play two years. Obviously, y’all wouldn’t know, because none of y’all played in the NBA. He’s got to get his body right. There’s contact every night. Playing 30-plus minutes, it takes time.”

Simmons says he’s still working on finding consistency with his health and play.

Yeah, I feel [the confidence]. I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of. I know what this team needs me to do, so I’m going to keep working and being consistent with my body and on the court,” he said.

Here’s more on the two New York-based teams:

  • Can Simmons and center Nic Claxton overcome spacing concerns and coexist in the Nets‘ starting lineup? Lewis tackles that subject in a member-only article for The New York Post. Head coach Jacque Vaughn acknowledged it will be a challenge at times. “Something we’ve got to figure out,” Vaughn said. “Because both guys do present some positives for us. Hopefully we can lean into the defensive piece with their length with Kevin (Durant) out there on the floor at the same time. But we do have to work through some spacing. We’ll try to play fast. Nic has that ability to run the floor and play fast, so hopefully we won’t have a bunch of sets in the halfcourt that we’ve got to make our way through.”
  • Power forward Julius Randle says he’s still adjusting to “playing off the ball more” after the Knicks signed point guard Jalen Brunson in the offseason, according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. As Botte notes, New York ran a lot of its offense through Randle from 2020-22, when he averaged 5.6 assists per game. That figure is down to 3.0 per night in ’22/23, but he’s scoring more efficiently. “Just making the game easy, try and make efficient shots and keep the flow of the offense going,” Randle said. “I think it’s the flow of our offense. Break it down, see more, especially in my position where shots are coming from [and being] responsible for getting good shots … figuring out what spots for most efficient shots.”
  • The Knicks have played all three of their centers — Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims — three games in a row. Head coach Tom Thibodeau says that won’t always be the case, but he’s a fan of having so many options at the five spot. “It’s game-to-game. It’ll sort itself out,” Thibodeau said, per Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “I don’t think it’ll be like that every game. But I love the depth at that position. So all three guys are more than capable, all three can start, all three can come off the bench. It’s a good luxury to have.”

Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein Discusses Role, Achilles Issue

Last season with the Clippers, center Isaiah Hartenstein served as a play-maker in the middle, averaging 4.7 assists per 36 minutes. According to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, the Knicks sold Hartenstein on playing a similar role in New York when he joined the team in the offseason as a free agent.

However, so far this fall, Hartenstein is handing out a career-low 1.2 assists per 36 minutes and averaging just 0.8 seconds per touch (as opposed to 2.06 seconds per touch last season). The big man acknowledged on Wednesday that he has been asked to play more like a traditional center with the Knicks.

“It’s adjusting to a different role where it’s playing more like (the Knicks’ other centers), I guess. Not more of what I’m used to,” Hartenstein said. “That’s been a little more difficult. And so I’m just adjusting to more of a Mitch (Robinson) role, where I’m just rolling into the pick-and-roll.”

As Bondy relays, Hartenstein reiterated multiple times during his media session that he’s fine with making the adjustment, but said it has been a challenge and has required some extra film work to get comfortable.

It doesn’t help that the 24-year-old has been dealing with an inflamed Achilles tendon since the summer and still only feels “about 80 percent.” Hartenstein believes the issue is hindering his athleticism and may be having an impact on his defense and rebounding, according to Bondy.

“I feel like I’m a little slower than I normally am,” he said. “Little slower to get up to defend the shots where I normally am able to do really good.”

When Robinson missed some time this month due to a knee injury, third-string center Jericho Sims entered the rotation and had some strong performances. With Robinson back, all three centers have played at least 13 minutes apiece in each of the Knicks’ past two games, but Bondy says head coach Tom Thibodeau typically prefers to use just two centers in his rotation, especially if he wants to try to get Julius Randle and Obi Toppin some minutes together.

Hartenstein, who signed a two-year, $16MM contract and has appeared in every game so far this season, may not end up being the odd man out, but he said he’s willing to accept a reduced role if the team wants to lean more on its traditional centers or use a two-power-forward look.

“I know what I can do,” Hartenstein said. “It’s now just doing whatever I can do in the role that’s given to me. I have a lot of respect for Jericho and Mitch. So if that’s what coach thinks is the best thing to do – if coach thinks it’s best to go with Julius and Obi, then do that. I’m just here to help the team win at the end of the day and if coach thinks that way, or if coach thinks that way. I’m ready to do that.”

Knicks Notes: Roster, Robinson, Hartenstein, Toppin, Grimes

The Knicks‘ reluctance to gamble on a big move this summer has left them with an imperfect roster and no star power to lean on, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. New York is off to a 4-5 start, but the wins came against three rebuilding teams and the shorthanded Sixers, while the losses were to probable playoff teams built around All-Stars.

The offseason was defined by an unwillingness to meet Utah’s price for Donovan Mitchell, who was subsequently traded to Cleveland. Coach Tom Thibodeau was a strong advocate for making the Mitchell trade, according to Popper, who hears from an NBA source that the Knicks had bad intel and believed the Cavs weren’t willing to give the Jazz everything they wanted. Knicks executive Brock Aller argued against giving up three unprotected first-round picks for Mitchell, Popper adds.

The Knicks were also in position to outbid Atlanta for Dejounte Murray, Popper contends. He cites recent mistakes such as signing Evan Fournier in 2021 when Thibodeau preferred to keep Reggie Bullock and taking Obi Toppin ahead of Tyrese Haliburton in the 2020 draft.

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau described the right knee sprain that center Mitchell Robinson suffered on Friday night as “mild,” per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Robinson will be reevaluated in seven-to-10 days to determine when he can resume playing. The injury increases the value of offseason addition Isaiah Hartenstein, who is expected to be the starting center while Robinson is out. “He’s done everything that we were hopeful of, and we obviously studied him quite a bit,” Thibodeau said of Hartenstein. “The rim protection obviously has been very, very good. Pick-and-roll defense, very good. And then offensively, just to pull people away from the basket, play-make, very good passer. Good in the paint. And so I think as he gets more comfortable, you’ll see more and more from him.”
  • The Knicks are downplaying an argument during the fourth quarter of Friday’s game between Toppin and assistant coach Rick Brunson, Bondy states in the same story. They reportedly resolved their differences, and they have a solid relationship as Brunson trained Toppin while he was preparing for the draft. “Just normal NBA stuff,” Thibodeau said. “Heat of the battle.”
  • Quentin Grimes was held out of tonight’s game because of soreness in his left foot, the same issue that caused him to miss the season’s first six games, Bondy adds.

Mitchell Robinson To Miss At Least One Week With Knee Sprain

Center Mitchell Robinson suffered a sprained right knee in Friday’s game, the Knicks announced (via Twitter). His condition will be reevaluated in seven-to-10 days.

Robinson was injured late in the first half against the Sixers. He limped to the locker room and was declared out for the rest of the game.

Robinson has played in all eight games so far and is averaging 6.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per night. He is coming off a relatively healthy season, appearing in 72 games last year after being limited to 31 in 2020/21.

Isaiah Hartenstein, who started the second half Friday night, should see a larger role while Robinson is sidelined. The Knicks also used power forwards Julius Randle and Obi Toppin together against Philadelphia and may employ more of that small-ball lineup until Robinson returns.

New York Notes: Udoka, Durant, Irving, Marks, Rose, Hartenstein

If you’re wondering what the Nets superstars think of Ime Udoka, whom the team plans to hire as its head coach, SNY.TV’s Ian Begley previously reported that Kevin Durant is a huge fan of Udoka, which is why Durant was interested in playing for the Celtics after making his trade demand this summer, SNY’s Danny Abriano relays. When Udoka was an assistant with the Nets, he had no qualms about challenging Durant and Kyrie Irving and they respected his blunt style.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • At least one executive interviewed by’s Steve Bulpett’s believes Udoka will be walking into a “no-lose” situation. “Things look so bad there, no one’s going to blame a new coach if it doesn’t get fixed.” the executive said. “We’ll see what Ime can do, but that just isn’t working on any level right now. They’ve still got a ways to go to get where they need to be on a basketball level, but you have to wonder whether they’ll ever have the chance to see that through. Kyrie just always seems to find a way to take the air out of the balloon.”
  • Irving didn’t speak to the media on Tuesday and GM Sean Marks said he wants to let Irving “simmer down” and not create more “fuss” over his controversial social media posts and retweets, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets. Marks noted Irving’s last media session “didn’t go well.”
  • Marks said Durant and Irving had “zero input” on the mutual parting of ways between Steve Nash and the organization, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets.
  • Derrick Rose has only attempted three free throws in six games and his injury history could be the explanation, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. The Knicks point guard reworked his game to avoid contact, even when he drives into the lane. The thinking is the less he gets hit, the better, even if it means fewer trips to the line.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein, one of the Knicks‘ offseason free agent additions, has been “terrific” so far this season, head coach Tom Thibodeau said on Sunday, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. “We knew he would be,” Thibodeau said. “He gives you rim protection. He can shoot, he can pass.” Hartenstein has played increased minutes in each of the team’s last two games due to Mitchell Robinson‘s foul trouble and has performed well, recording 12 points and nine rebounds on Sunday.

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Durant, Griffin, Horford, Tatum, Hartenstein

Cam Thomas‘ playing time dropped late last season and it doesn’t figure to spike upward with all of the Nets’ stars back in action this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes.

“We’ll see how it goes after training camp. But he clearly is on a veteran team with a lot of guys who can play, have had a lot of success,” coach Steve Nash said. “We know Cam’s talented, and just trying to continue to develop him and see if he can keep pushing and getting better at certain things that’ll help him get minutes. I said whether he plays or he doesn’t play, he has to stay positive, he has to keep the belief that this process is going to help him.”

Thomas appeared in 67 games last season, averaging 8.5 PPG in 17.6 MPG.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After all the drama he created during the offseason, Nets superstar Kevin Durant doesn’t want to continue answering questions about it, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell“Can we move on past that at some point?” Durant said. “I know it’s an interesting story. I know that it took up most of the offseason and drama sells, I get that, but I didn’t miss any games, I didn’t miss any practices, I’m still here. So hopefully we can move past that.”
  • Blake Griffin‘s versatility convinced the Celtics to take a flier on him, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. He was used more as a floor spacer and roller rather than the post-up scorer last season with the Nets, and he’s an adept ball handler. That makes him a more natural fit in Boston’s scheme. Griffin, who agreed to a one-year guaranteed deal, could see minutes at either power forward or center despite his defensive limitations.
  • With Ime Udoka out of the picture and young assistant Joe Mazzulla serving as the Celtics’ interim coach, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum need to take on bigger leadership roles, Steve Bulpett of opines. Horford can be more vocal and even demonstrative, while Tatum can set a better example by not complaining as much to the referees and by being quicker in terms of ball movement.
  • Center Isaiah Hartenstein will bring a new dimension to the Knicks’ second unit, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. Hartenstein fits the blueprint of what coach Tom Thibodeau demands on the defensive end due to his rim protection, Popper notes, and he’ll be tasked at times as the orchestrator of the second-unit offense. Hartenstein signed a two-year, $16.7MM contract as a free agent in July.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, SGA, Porter, Sixers, Hartenstein

The Raptors were repeatedly tied to big-name trade candidates this offseason, rumored to be possible suitors for Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, and Kevin Durant. Toronto ended up having a relatively quiet summer, making only minor tweaks to its roster, according to Josh Lewenberg of, who says the club is counting on internal growth from its own players, including Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes.

Still, while the Raptors didn’t take a big swing in the last few months, that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to make a major trade at some point to move closer to title contention. A league source tells Lewenberg that one situation the Raptors are “closely monitoring” is in Oklahoma City, in case Thunder star and Toronto native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander eventually seeks a change of scenery.

The Thunder have only won a total of 46 games in the last two seasons and appear headed for another lottery finish in 2022/23, but there’s no indication Gilgeous-Alexander is seeking an exit ramp out of town. He said this week that he knew what he was getting into when he signed a five-year extension with OKC a year ago and that he doesn’t think the team will keep losing for much longer.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • When he became a free agent and was weighing his options this summer, Otto Porter Jr. got in touch with forward Thaddeus Young to seek his opinion on Toronto, tweets Lewenberg. Young helped convince his former Bulls teammate to sign with the Raptors. “He’s one of my better friends in the league,” Young said. “He asked me questions and I said, ‘Come on through, sign the deal and let’s go.'”
  • Head coach Doc Rivers is pleased with the moves the Sixers‘ front office made this offseason, telling reporters this week that the team addressed the holes it was hoping to fill. “We had a targeted summer, and we hit pretty much what we’re looking for,” Rivers said, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “… We have to learn how to become a team first, and if we do that, I love who we are.”
  • Center Isaiah Hartenstein explained on Tuesday that he signed with the Knicks as a free agent this summer because they made him feel “wanted” and because he believes his ability to shoot and make plays from the center position will add a new dimension to the team. “I felt like I can bring something that they didn’t have, to help them win,” Hartenstein said, according to Zach Braziller of The New York Post.

Knicks Notes: Mitchell, Barrett, Brunson, Hartenstein, Robinson

The Knicks don’t view their newly announced signing of Jalen Brunson as an impediment to a potential pursuit of Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. As Fischer explains, the team believes that the addition of Brunson is a “key ingredient” in its plan of adding a legitimate All-Star to the roster, since the former Maverick is the sort of table-setter and secondary scorer whom a star would want to play alongside.

While the Knicks have stockpiled a number of extra future draft picks, it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be able to put together the sort of trade package the Jazz can’t refuse for Mitchell. As Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post writes, Utah would almost certainly push for New York to include former No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett, who has All-Star upside.

Vaccaro argues that the Knicks should be willing to give up Barrett for a player like Mitchell, who is already an All-Star, but it’s unclear how significantly the Jazz value the former Duke standout, how inclined New York is to include him an offer, and how many more assets Utah would want in addition to Barrett.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Brunson’s four-year, $104MM deal with the Knicks has a descending structure, beginning at $27.7MM in year one and eventually dipping to $24.9MM in years three and four, per Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). Brunson also got a 10% trade kicker to go along with his fourth-player option, a source tells Katz.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein has $16MM in guaranteed money on his two-year contract with the Knicks, along with a 5% trade kicker and $1.05MM in annual unlikely incentives, according to Katz (Twitter links). Hartenstein has three separate bonuses worth $350K apiece for playing at least 1,350 regular season minutes, the Knicks winning at least 40 games, and the Knicks making the playoffs, Katz adds.
  • Like Brunson’s new contract, Mitchell Robinson‘s four-year, $60MM pact has a descending structure, according to Katz (Twitter link). The deal, which doesn’t feature any options or a trade kicker, begins at $17MM in 2022/23 and decreases to $13MM in ’25/26.

Isaiah Hartenstein Signs Two-Year Deal With Knicks

JULY 12: The Knicks have officially signed Hartenstein, the team announced (via Twitter).

We are very excited to welcome Isaiah Hartenstein to the Knicks family,” said Knicks president Leon Rose. “He’s a versatile big man who impacts the game on both sides of the floor and who plays with a passion and energy that is contagious.”

JUNE 30: The Knicks and free agent center Isaiah Hartenstein have agreed to a two-year, $16.7MM deal, reports Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). It’ll be fully guaranteed, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Hartenstein had been linked to the Knicks in the days leading up to free agency, with New York said to be in the market for a backup at the five. The expectation is that the team will still re-sign Mitchell Robinson as its starting center, though no agreement is in place yet.

With Serge Ibaka still rounding into form following offseason back surgery, Hartenstein emerged early in the 2021/22 season as the Clippers’ primary backup center and thrived in the role, making 62.6% of his shots from the field and handing out 2.4 APG in just 17.9 minutes per contest. He even flashed the ability to hit the occasional three-pointer (14-of-30) and played solid defense.

Hartenstein has played for four teams in four NBA seasons and has never earned more than the minimum, but his performance this past season put him in a good position to land a multiyear deal and a raise, which he’ll get in New York.

If the Knicks are able to turn their deal with Jalen Brunson into a sign-and-trade, there are scenarios in which they operate over the cap this offseason, in which case Hartenstein would be in line for a chunk of the mid-level exception. However, if the club goes below the cap and uses room, it will have enough to accommodate both Brunson and Hartenstein.

Knicks Notes: Sims, Robinson, Diop, Hartenstein

Jericho Sims has shown so far during the Las Vegas Summer League why the Knicks were willing to give him a new three-year deal this offseason, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. In addition to averaging a double-double (13.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG) in his first two Summer League games, Sims has displayed intriguing mobility and play-making ability, putting the ball on the floor and bringing it up the court himself after grabbing rebounds.

“I’ve been working on pushing the ball in transition a little bit, trying to get more comfortable doing that again, making the right reads,” he said, per Braziller.

Sims’ three-year contract is worth just $2,000 above the minimum in 2022/23, with minimum salaries in years two and three, per Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter links). Katz adds that the first year is fully guaranteed, while the second year is partially guaranteed for $600K and the third year is a team option with a partial guarantee of $651,180.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Mitchell Robinson‘s strong relationships with his young teammates and other members of the organization played a major part in his decision to remain with the Knicks, according to Ian Begley of “He had a number of opportunities,” a source familiar with Robinson’s thinking said of the center’s free agency. “He chose to be there.”
  • DeSagana Diop, the head coach of the Westchester Knicks (New York’s G League team), is taking over as the head coach of Senegal’s national men’s basketball team, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link).
  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue believes Los Angeles’ former backup center Isaiah Hartenstein will be a good fit on his new team in New York, Braziller writes for The New York Post. “You can run stuff through him, he can make plays, he can make passes,” Lue told Braziller. “Defensively, he’s one of (Tom Thibodeau‘s) types of guys. He can switch at the five position, good in the drops. He’s very athletic and so he can do a lot of different things. He had a great year for us.” Although Lue would’ve liked to have Hartenstein back in L.A., he said he’s “happy for him, getting the contract he got.”
  • In case you missed it, the Knicks finalized their Alec Burks/Nerlens Noel trade with the Pistons on Monday, clearing a path to officially sign Jalen Brunson and Hartenstein.