GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Before the Knicks call it a (bad) season after four more games, Enes Kanter wants to play again if he can. There may be megamillions of reasons for him not to risk it with the chance to opt out from the final year of his contract, but he’s still all in.
“It would be really selfish to think about opting in or opting out or thinking about my contract,” Kanter said after sitting out practice Thursday because of soreness in his lower back and right wrist that cost him the last two games. “Giving up on my teammates and my team would be really selfish. The Knicks are still paying me. I’m still part of the team. If I feel healthy, I’m just going to go out there and fight.”
The 25-year-old Turkish center arrived last September in a package from Oklahoma City in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. Kanter is averaging a double-double for this 27-51 team — 14.1 points and 11.0 rebounds, including 3.8 on the offensive glass.
“What we wanted were guys that were going to play hard every single night,” Jeff Hornacek said. “Enes, he’s kind of that guy that does that. It doesn’t matter if he’s hurt. When he gets out there and plays, he plays hard. He knocks guys around, tries as hard as he can.
“The offensive rebounding he gave us this year was great . . . I thought he played extremely well for us.”
If his body is up to it, Kanter would relish facing LeBron James in the closing home-and-home set with Cleveland. Kanter defended rookie Frank Ntilikina in a minor skirmish with James in November and has taken some verbal jabs at James this season. Then Kanter must decide on that opt-out clause. He gets $18.6 million and change if he stays. He called New York “amazing” and praised general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills for attending practices.
“That shows how much they care about their players, this organization,” Kanter said. “That shows a lot to me. Seeing these two guys sit on the sidelines is going to definitely affect my decision this summer. I love these guys.”
He doesn’t love Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter posted an article Monday on Twitter about a dentist there who was sentenced to 7 1⁄2 years in jail because Kanter posed for a photo with two men at the dentist’s clinic. The Turkish government reportedly has arrest warrants out for Kanter and those men. Kanter has been outspoken against Erdogan.
“It’s just sad,” Kanter said. “This is my friend, and I took a picture on his balcony. Now he’s in jail for 7 1⁄2 years? That’s crazy . . . It just shows how messed up the Turkish government, how messed up the situation right now is in Turkey.”