Things can change very quickly in life. There are many successful people that will tell you to stay on your toes and recognise when an opportunity presents itself to you, so that you’re in the best position to take it. There are fewer players in the NBA’s recent history who could relate to that sentiment right now more than Isaiah Hartenstein.
I’ve found myself watching this youthful Cavs squad this season, with all their frontcourt talent and wonder how much Hartenstein could be thriving with them in an alternative universe. Yet, despite having a player option, he decided to bet on himself and see what the free agency market looked like for him. Fortunately, the championship-contending Los Angeles Clippers were looking for a third-choice center to supplement Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka, but that didn’t quite make it a done deal. Training camp contracts followed for him and the once hotly-tipped Duke alum Harry Giles III, and I was all in on the hype that the latter brought compared to the former. It took mere days and a couple of videos emerging of Hart throwing some flashy passes in practice for my mind to change. Nobody has looked back since then.
Having his deal guaranteed back in January was just reward for how much Hartenstein had impressed during his first few months in the city of angels. One of his biggest performances came way back in November against Portland, a win which extended the team’s run at the time to five games. It was a game in which the team benefited from the extra energy and scoring boost provided by their new big man, who put up 14 points and grabbed three assists in just 17 minutes off the bench. Another highlight of his season came in the historic comeback win against the Washington Wizards where his 16 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists scratched the squad right where they itched and helped get them over the line. He dropped a season high of 19 exactly two weeks later, and finishes the season with an admirable 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
What’s next for Hartenstein and the Clippers? You would imagine, given that Ty Lue has already spoken about his desire to bring everybody back, there’s going to be talks over an extension. The 23-year-old could be a crucial part of the next generation of this squad that have impressed so much this season in the absence of the stars. Plus, with Ibaka’s trade deadline move to the Milwaukee Bucks bumping the German national up the pecking order, he could be set for an even bigger role in what promises to be a huge season for this franchise.