Knicks lose center Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency

Knicks lose center Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency

If the Knicks want to get off to a strong start in next year’s NBA playoffs, they’ll need to find an additional center to bolster their defense.

New York lost a key part of their current roster when Isaiah Hartenstein signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder to a three-year, $87 million contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Hartenstein pulled the trigger after meeting with Thunder bigwigs in Eugene, Oregon.

The Knicks wanted to keep him and could have offered him a four-year, $72 million contract, but the chance to make more money with a Western Conference contender was too much for him to resist. The Thunder were the No. 1 seed in the West last season and are led by MVP finalist Shai-Gilgeous Alexander.

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The 7-foot-2 Hartenstein, 26, became a fan favorite after averaging 7.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in his second season with the Knicks. They reached the second round of the playoffs before falling short due to injuries against the Indiana Pacers.

The Knicks have center Mitchell Robinson under contract for two more seasons, but he has struggled with injuries and missed significant time last season after surgery on his left ankle. He returned in late March, but then suffered a stress injury to his left ankle in Game 1 against the Pacers.

The Knicks will now be looking for a big-name player after retaining OG Anunoby and trading Mikal Bridges. They want to challenge the NBA champion Boston Celtics and the new 76ers in the East.

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Adam Zagoria is a freelance reporter covering Seton Hall and NJ college basketball for NJ Advance Media. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamZagoria and check out his website at