SALT LAKE CITY — A day after going nose-to-nose with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the court, Enes Kanter had kind words for the Milwaukee star — but not so much for Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham.
After Kanter hit a driving Antetokounmpo in the face (with no foul being called) during the Knicks’ 112-96 loss on Thursday night, Kanter and Antetokounmpo exchanged angry words before Ham rushed up and shoved Kanter.
“The NBA should fine him,” Kanter said. “He’s not my assistant coach, so he’s not allowed to touch me. You’re a Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach, so you’re allowed to touch the Bucks players, not me. He cannot be touching me. I could’ve just pushed him back and started another fight. But I don’t think the NBA wants that. He’s not my assistant coach. He’s not my friend. He’s not nobody. He should be fined.”
When Kanter retreated to the locker room — ejected from the game and about to receive three stitches to close a cut above his left eye from an earlier play on the other end of the court — he found a kindred spirit in Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis, watching from home in New York, posted on Instagram: “that was some [expletive] tonight!!! and that bucks assistant coach needs to sit his [butt] down before grabbing Enes like that. grab your own players not the opp. team.”
Said Kanter: “After I got cut, I went to the locker room. He texted me and I talked to him on FaceTime. I talked to him. He can be quiet, but he supports us 100 percent. He’s always supporting us and it means a lot. I appreciate it and it means a lot to me.’’
Kanter, riding an exercise bike as he spoke after practice Friday at the University of Utah, had a lot on his mind. There was the confrontation with Antetokounmpo, the shove by Ham (which he hoped would elicit a fine from the NBA), his own ejection (which he planned to appeal to save some money) and finally his place on the Knicks — out of the starting lineup.
Luke Kornet started in his place and scored 23 points, shooting 7-for-11 from three-point range. Knicks coach David Fizdale said he will stick with that lineup for now.
“I want to look at it for a little bit,” Fizdale said. “That’s part of the deal. He was the one guy that I hadn’t looked at in that lineup. I just felt like, with that group, why not look at it with some space? It looked pretty good.”
“It’s my eighth year in the league,” Kanter said. “Obviously, he’s the coach. You got to respect his decision. Everybody wants to start. Everyone wants to play 40 minutes. He’s the coach. He’s making the decisions. For me to get to the next level, just be a good teammate, support my teammate out there and clap for him and cheer for him. That’s what I’m going to do.
“I’ll go out and do my job and help my team win. It’s all about the win. If we’re winning, it’s good. But if we’re losing, it’s a problem. If this adjustment is going to get us a win, cool. But if not, there’s a problem.”
Notes & quotes: Tim Hardaway Jr., who missed Thursday’s game with an unspecified illness, practiced Friday and is listed as questionable for Saturday night’s game.