CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Enes Kanter wants to get paid.
Endorsement money, that is.
Kanter indicated he’s close to signing with highly-respected agent Mark Bartelstein. But Kanter said it has more to do with getting some off-the-court deals than deciding whether to pick up his $18.6 million player option for next season.
He’s had trouble getting endorsement deals with U.S. companies because of his ongoing conflict with the Turkish government. If Kanter ever returns to Turkey, he faces more than four years in prison on charges that he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter.
“Outside of the court, I make almost no money because of all the Turkish stuff,” Kanter said. “Most companies are scared to give me any contract because of what’s going on in Turkey. If I had an agent maybe I’ll get some Chinese shoe company or Filipino or whatever.
“That’s why I’m signing with him. That’s the reason.”
Kanter said Nike wouldn’t give him a sneaker deal because the company feared it wouldn’t be able to sell its sneakers in Turkey. Kanter also said he’s had trouble getting an agent, especially if they represent clients who play in Turkey.
“I’m lucky to have one agent,” Kanter said. “I haven’t signed with him yet.”
When Kanter signs with Bartelstein of Priority Sports & Entertainment, there certainly will be a conversation about his impending future.
Kanter has said repeatedly that he wants to remain a Knick. The expectation is Kanter will opt in rather than opt out since there is no guarantee he will see close to that amount of money in free agency. It’s hard to gauge if there would even be a market for the 25-year-old Kanter this summer.
Also, if Kanter opts out, the Knicks likely won’t re-sign him to a multi-year deal. They’re trying to limit payroll in the summer of 2019 so they have the cap room to sign players from a marquee free-agent class that includes Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love.
“That’s the thing I would worry after the season, when the season is over,” Kanter said. “Right now, it’s just basketball.”
Kanter likes playing in New York. He enjoys the attention and platform he has while playing for the Knicks, which is another reason he’s expected to opt in.
“I’m just a basketball player,” Kanter said. “I need somebody to represent me. I don’t know all the details, what’s going on with the contract and stuff. My job and my focus is to play basketball. I think that’s a decision I will make later.”