Enes Kanter’s stance hasn’t changed.
The Knicks center was the one who talked about wanting to make the playoffs more than anyone on the team. Now even though they are no longer competing for a playoff spot, and they may not next season since Kristaps Porzingis will miss at least the first few months recovering from a torn ACL, Kanter is committed to staying with the Knicks.
“This is the place I want to be,” Kanter said. “I’ve said it from the beginning because I know the organization. I love the city, lot of Turkish people. With KP or without KP, I want to be here for sure.
“This is a rebuilding team and the guys around us are really amazing. From the top guy to the last guy everybody has just been awesome to me. Everybody opened their arms for me from day one. We’re just going to get better.”
The way Kanter speaks it sounds as if he’s already decided to opt in at the $18.66 million he’s signed for next season. Many people already have presumed or speculated he would. But Kanter says, “Tell those people they’re wrong.”
Kanter, who currently doesn’t have an agent, said he’s only thinking about this season.
“I’m not saying I’m opting in or opting out,” Kanter said. “I’m going to focus on this season, finish this season. I don’t even have an agent yet. I’ll get an agent first and talk to him about [it].
“My thing right now it would be selfish for me to just say I’ll do this, I’ll do that. I’m going to finish this season right, have fun with my teammates and start thinking about the contract stuff.”
The organization is fond of Kanter because he works and plays hard and has really embraced his role and playing in New York. He’s probably the Knicks’ second-most popular player among fans behind Porzingis.
The Knicks want Kanter back. But if he opts out, it could get interesting.
They don’t want to have too much money locked up in the summer of 2019 when they hope to be big spenders on a class that could include Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and Kevin Love.
Kanter was acquired from Oklahoma City days before the start of training camp in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Kanter came into the weekend averaging 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds.
He has never averaged a double-double for an entire season, and his numbers could dip with the Knicks playing the younger guys more minutes the rest of the way. But Kanter said he understands the situation and he’ll do whatever the Knicks ask of him.
“I’ll be here, whatever they want me to do,” Kanter said. “If they’re going to shut me down, OK, I’ll just cheer from the bench. If they say play zero minutes I’m going to sit there and clap for my teammates. If they’re going to play me 35 minutes I’ll be OK with that too.”
Tanks a lot
There’s nothing wrong with Lottery-bound teams playing their veterans less at this point of the season. You can take a closer look at young players without declaring you’re tanking to get a higher draft pick as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did on Julius Erving’s podcast.
Cuban admitted he told some of his players, “losing is our best option.” The league fined Cuban $600,000 “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”
The Bulls straddled the line this week when team president John Paxson announced they were replacing veterans and former Knicks Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday in the starting lineup with third-year center Christiano Felicio and second-year swingman David Nwaba.
The Knicks have made their plan clear, while also stating they’re trying to win.
“We’ve got to try to grow and not just play for this year but play for the coming years,” Hornacek said. “We’re never trying to cash in games. I’ve gotten no directive from management to do anything like that. We have to see these young guys play. We have to have belief that we’re going to work on things the rest of this year and hopefully that benefits for the future.
“I don’t think you ever want your players to believe you’re tanking games to try to get a high draft pick.”
Trey tries to seize his moment
The Knicks going with a youth movement the rest of the season was a like a door opening for Trey Burke, and he had every intention to run through it.
Burke got off to a great start, scoring a season-high 26 points with six assists in Thursday’s win in Orlando. He also made some stops on the defensive end.
The Knicks want to see that Burke can do it on a consistent basis. But a more mature Burke, a lottery pick in 2013, wants to prove he can as well so he has a future with the Knicks or in the NBA.
“For me, it’s an opportunity again,” Burke said. “It’s something I feel I took for granted when I first came into the NBA, thinking that you’re always going to have these minutes to play, someone’s going to always allow you to roll the ball out there and play. It got taken away from me. I had to work to get back to a situation where I would have an opportunity.”
Burke started 68 games as a rookie for Utah in 2013-14 and averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 assists. Since then, his starts and playing time dipped each year. Burke started 43 games the following season, none in 2015-16 with Utah or 2016-17 with the Wizards.
The start of Burke’s career is very similar to Emmanuel Mudiay’s.
A 2015 lottery pick who the Knicks acquired at the trade deadline, Mudiay started 66 games as a rookie and averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 assists with Denver. Mudiay started 41 games the next season and none this year until Thursday night.
The Knicks hope a fresh start was something both young guards needed, and it will be mutually beneficial.
They signed Burke in September and kept him in the G League until bringing him up in January. Now he has a chance to show he can he can be an instant-offense type of quick guard off the bench.
“I knew even when I got called up, it was going to be a process for me getting in a role with this team to play consistent minutes,” Burke said. “Now that it’s here, I’m trying to take full advantage of it.”
- Frank Ntilikina met former Knicks’ enforcer Charles Oakley over All-Star Weekend. Oakley posted a picture of the two of them on Twitter and gave the rookie some words of encouragement. “I’m thankful for what he said to me,” Ntilikina said. “He said I have a bright future and keep working on your game.”
- Ramon Sessions, who the Knicks brought in to be their starting point guard and then waived in January to open a roster spot for Burke, signed a 10-day contract with the Wizards this week.
-Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo told Milwaukee reporters he spent a lot of time talking to other All-Stars and shared a conversation he had with 76ers center Joel Embiid. “He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just laughed.”
- Dirk Nowitzki’s response to Mark Cuban’s remarks on tanking: “I’ll never stand for losing on purpose. It’s just not who I am.”