Knicks insider hints that Hartenstein backup plan could have better offer on table

Of course.
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein
New York Knicks, Isaiah Hartenstein / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The start of free agency was slow, as Luke Kornet re-signing with the Celtics was Adrian Wojnarowski's first tweet once 6 p.m. ET hit. New York Knicks fans waited for an Isaiah Hartenstein update before bed, but one didn't come.

On Sunday afternoon in Oregon, the Thunder met with Hartenstein. Oklahoma City left the meeting without a deal, which New York fans took as a good sign. On Monday morning, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski dealt a crushing blow when he reported that Hartenstein agreed to sign a three-year, $87 million deal with the Thunder.

Several potential Hartenstein backup options have gone off the board. Jonas Valanciunas signed a three-year deal with the Wizards, Andre Drummond signed a two-year deal with the Sixers, Jalen Smith signed a three-year deal with the Bulls, and Mason Plumlee signed a one-year deal with the Suns. The Knicks' backup options are slim.

Goga Bitadze is a player New York has expressed interest in, but he might not be someone the Knicks can snag. SNY's Ian Begley reported that Bitadze might have a better offer from the Magic, the team with which he spent the last season and a half.

Knicks have to pivot after losing Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency

New York could still make a pitch to Bitadze, but he's already said he wants to return to Orlando. The Magic are coming off a season where they earned their first playoff berth in four years. It took seven games for Cleveland to knock off a young Orlando squad.

Last season, Bitadze averaged 5.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game in 62 contests (33 starts). The 24-year-old is the best free-agent center left on the market. Maybe he'll be intrigued by playing at Madison Square Garden for one of the top teams in the East. Or, he could decide to see it through with Orlando if an offer is on the table.

On Sunday, the Magic made a big free agency splash when they signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a three-year, $66 million deal. New York has bolstered its roster since the season ended, but so has Orlando.

The Knicks have Mitchell Robinson under contract for two more seasons and picked up Jericho Sims' team option for 2024-25. They didn't give Precious Achiuwa a qualifying offer but could still sign him.

Expect Leon Rose and New York to make moves very soon. The clock is ticking!

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