The reasons why the Knicks need the best Isaiah Hartenstein

The New York Knicks need Isaiah Hartenstein back and fully healthy, that much is clear. Hartenstein has done an impressive job replacing Mitchell Robinson as the Knicks’ starting center since Robinson underwent ankle surgery in December. But the seven-footer injured his Achilles tendon at some point in February. If he doesn’t recover soon, the Knicks’ season could be in jeopardy.

Hartenstein looked like a borderline All-Star in January, putting up incredibly impressive stats and having an even bigger impact on the Knicks’ success. Since January 1, he has collected the ninth-most rebounds and 26th-most blocks in the NBA. And that includes poor play since he injured his Achilles tendon in early February.

Despite no longer appearing on the team’s injury report, Hartenstein’s Achilles tendon remains an issue. He admitted it after Thursday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors.

“I probably could have sat out a couple more weeks,” Hartenstein told SNY’s Ian Begley.

While Hartenstein is confident in the team’s plan to reacclimate him over time, he is struggling right now. And that’s costing the Knicks wins.

Hartenstein allows the Knicks to successfully match up with some of the best big men in the league. And he provides an offensive versatility that few centers offer. But he must be healthy.

Hartenstein’s impact on the Knicks is clear. But he hasn’t been himself for a while. And an injured Hartenstein is not enough.

So, New York finds itself in the precarious position of choosing between resting a key player for the playoffs or possibly losing games and hoping its center gets healthy by continuing to play. Neither option is great. But one thing is clear: The Knicks need a healthy Hartenstein to compete.