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Enes Kanter rejoins Knicks and enjoys support from politicians, NBA

The 26-year-old center looks forward to MLK Day game at the Garden.

Knicks center Enes Kanter jokes with teammates during

Knicks center Enes Kanter jokes with teammates during a timeout in the first half against the Nuggets on Jan. 1, 2019, in Denver. Photo Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Knicks built a 19-point  cushion against Washington on Thursday but found a new way to lose, falling on a last-second goaltending call. Enes Kanter took in the royal debacle in London from the lounge in his White Plains apartment building.

“It was very boring,” Kanter said about watching on TV after rejoining the Knicks for practice Sunday at MSG Training Center. “I was happy because we were up by 19. It was a tough loss, of course. It hurt us a lot. But it was definitely tough because [of] sitting there, being healthy and not to help your teammates — definitely tough.”

Kanter had feared for his life if he were to go to England because of his sharp and steady criticism of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the 26-year-old center still had a very productive week.  He did a series of network TV interviews, wrote a piece for The Washington Post and went to Washington to speak with politicians.

“It was definitely amazing because I met with so many important people, so many politicians, congressmen, senators, so many journalists,” said Kanter, whose Turkish passport was revoked in 2017. “So it was definitely important for me to just go out there and meet those [politicians] and ask them about their opinion and talk about all the issues going on in Turkey.

“I was telling them about my issues and they stopped me. They said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We already know what’s going on in Turkey.’ That actually made me very happy, all the support I’m getting from the congressmen and the senators.”

They weren’t the only ones supporting him.

“I was very happy that the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, and James Dolan showed support,” Kanter said. “So that shows that the NBA stands with freedom of speech and stands with democracy. That, for me, made me very happy and just gave me a lot of confidence in what I’m doing.”

A report came out Wednesday that Turkish prosecutors want to have Kanter arrested and extradited on the grounds that he is in a terrorist organization. Kanter countered on Twitter, “The only thing I terrorize is the rim.”

Kanter said he felt “rested” upon his return. “Everybody was happy to see him,” coach David Fizdale said.

Said Allonzo Trier, “We definitely miss him when he’s not out on the floor with us.”

The question is, how much longer will he be on the floor with them? The trade deadline is Feb. 7, and Kanter’s name has been out there. He has an expiring contract, and although he has been a productive player, averaging 14.4 points and 11.0 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game, he is a reserve for a 10-34 team focused on developing its young players.

Kanter is looking forward to being at the Garden on Monday for the MLK Day game against Oklahoma City.

“It means a lot,” he said. “Whoever fights for freedom, whoever fights for democracy or civil rights, it just shows a lot. So it will definitely be a blessing to have that day and play that day. It’ll be an honor just to go out there and wear this T-shirt and just go out there and just play, because he fought for something very important.” 

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