Basketball players rack up a lot of kilometers in two years; Isaiah Hartenstein, for example, has accumulated around 150 appearances during this time. No wonder, because the German is one of only ten players who did their job in each of the 82 games of the US professional league NBA last season. Two years, it can happen that an opposing high jumper flies over you and puts the ball in the basket. “Poster Dunk” is what it’s called in the big basketball circus. A picture to print and frame. The spectacle of one as a disgrace for the other.
“I’m not afraid of dunk attempts like that,” he says
But Hartenstein, 25 years old and 2.13 meters long, largely held himself harmless in this regard, as he now said. “They haven’t dunked on me often in the last two years, and this record can stay that way,” he said recently after a game against the Miami Heat. There he again delivered a scene that characterizes his game: Miami’s Haywood Highsmith no longer expected much resistance during a quick attack, he took off to dunk – and was plucked by the rushing Hartenstein. A “monster block” that also had a psychological effect. At the time, Hartenstein’s New York Knicks were trailing by 21 points.
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In the end it was 100:98 for the Knicks, who are on course for the playoffs with a decent win rate of nine wins and seven defeats. Hartenstein’s action provided the spark for the turnaround. “I’m not afraid of dunk attempts like that,” he says. He knows how to defend himself. Anyone who follows the center’s performances in his seventh year in the NBA often ends up with moments like this: Hartenstein builds himself up in the zone, reaches over the ring with his arms and prevents impacts. These are important actions for his team’s defensive structure that don’t always show up in the statistics. Sometimes he just stands there and uses his 250-pound body. Sometimes he protects the basket by using his length to make opponent shots more difficult without blocking them.
And sometimes timing and athleticism form the unity that also ruined the tour for Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns this week. In the fourth quarter of the game against the Knicks, he flew full of energy towards the net when it got dark. Hartenstein. The next announcement according to the old Dikembe Mutombo motto: “Not in my house.” The native Congolese celebrated emphatic shot blocking like no other in the 1990s; his wagging index finger after such actions has burned itself into the iconography of basketball.
Open detailed view
Protector at his own ring: Hartenstein is an important defensive factor for the New York Knicks.
(Foto: Brynn Anderson/AP)
Of course, Hartenstein’s interventions don’t always bring victory (against Phoenix, Booker returned the favor with a three-pointer in the last second), but his role as a special assistant off the bench is too small. But he has achieved what allows you to have a solid career in the NBA, even if you don’t play in the front row: He is a welcome role player who masters his role. He scores almost six points per game either with dunks or with shots from close range. He reliably collects his average of five rebounds in 17 minutes per game. It was like that during his stints in Los Angeles with the Clippers and in Cleveland.
The Hartensteins are a family between worlds, here in Manhattan, there in Artland near Osnabrück
“Isaiah has struggled here since he arrived,” his coach Tom Thibodeau recently explained. “He had to find his way, but he’s been playing really well since then.” His replacement center has become more physical, “can assert himself at the basket and opens up space for our offense with good passes.” In combination with Mitchell Robinson, the big man in New York’s starting lineup, he forms one of the best center pairings in the league. “They protect our basket and are also great teammates because they contribute selflessly,” praised Thibodeau.
In New York, they reward Hartenstein’s skills with $16 million over two years – and the German says he is feeling more and more comfortable in the “Big Apple.” He appreciates the New York professional audience, which in turn takes hard workers like him to their hearts. Things also seem to be going well in private life: Isaiah Hartenstein has been married to model Kourtney Kellar, a former Miss Texas, since last summer. His father Florian now lives with him again. The Hartensteins are a family between worlds, here Manhattan, there Artland, a community association north of Osnabrück. Isaiah was born in Oregon when his father played basketball at the university there. Then came the move to Quakenbrück, where Florian played in the Bundesliga and Isaiah later matured into a professional. Rewinding many kilometers obviously runs in the family.