GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Enes Kanter only became a Knick in September, but he cares about their past and is motivated by their negative history.
Considering how much of that the Knicks have, this could work out well for Kanter and his new team.
Kanter was extra amped when Cleveland visited the Garden last week because he remembered seeing LeBron James and other Cavaliers flipping bottles on the bench late in a blowout win last season. He felt it was “really disrespectful.”
Seeing a stat before Monday’s game that the Knicks hadn’t beaten the Clippers since 2012 also pumped up Kanter, who had 12 points and 16 rebounds in a 22-point victory.
“I was like, ‘This is crazy. We have to change that. We have to change that,’ ” Kanter said after practice Tuesday.
The Knicks did, but Kanter won’t change what he’s doing since it’s working for him.
Before each game, Kanter scrolls through his phone looking for something to give him extra motivation, and then he brings it on the court. He often tweets a picture with an emoji symbol of a padlock, signifying he’s locked in.
“Sometimes I read Twitter comments and everything and I saw, OK, we did not win a game against Clippers since 2012. Bottle-flip game or whatever. Those are the things that just fire me up before the game. OK, let’s do it then.
“Things like that, ‘OK, this is disrespectful. Let’s just go out there and bury him.’ That’s my thing.”
The Knicks lost to the Cavaliers, but Kanter won over the Garden fans when he defended rookie Frank Ntilikina and got in James’ face during the game. Kanter also made some disparaging remarks about James afterward.
Acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder with Doug McDermott in the Carmelo Anthony trade, Kanter has brought the Knicks some much-needed edge, toughness, and an inside presence. Kanter is averaging 13.1 points and 10.6 rebounds — including 3.9 offensive boards — while only playing 25.8 minutes.
He’s helped the Knicks get off to an unexpected 9-7 start. Excitement is building for this team that seems to be recapturing the hearts of a fan base that had become disenchanted by four straight years of missing the playoffs.
“I think it’s cool to see the crowd cheering for us and I’m seeing some of the front office say, we were never excited like this for a long time,” Kanter said. “Everybody is excited, everybody is smiling and everything.”
Kanter should have no trouble getting up for the Knicks’ next game. They host the Raptors on Wednesday, six nights after Toronto handed the Knicks’ their worst loss of the season — a 23-point defeat.
“We owe them one,” Kanter said. “They beat us pretty bad.”
Kristaps Porzingis had a similar outlook to this matchup.
“We want to get our revenge,” Porzingis said. “They played great at home, we played bad and it’s going to be an opportunity for us tomorrow.”
Porzingis had a rough night, as he shot 3-for-13 and scored 13 points. It was Porzingis’ second-worst shooting game of the season, and second-lowest output. He credited the Raptors with playing good team defense. But Porzingis also said he missed good looks and he was “stagnant,” and waited too long to make a move or decision.
“It has to be something quicker,” Porzingis said. “I have to be more aggressive before [the defender] can position himself and be too comfortable.”
Porzingis is using each game and situation as a learning experience. “It’s going to be different tomorrow,” he said.
This approach and his overall play in his first season as the focal point of an offense has earned rave reviews from around the league, as well as in his own locker room. Kanter, who played with MVPs Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, called Porzingis a special player.
“He is the type of guy that there is not much players in the league like that,” Kanter said. “He’s making himself better, and at the same time he’s making the players around him better. That’s what a really special player does. And I think that when I’m on the court with him, he’s doing a really good job helping the team and everything. So I’m really happy he’s my teammate.”
Jeff Hornacek said Tim Hardaway Jr.’s sore left foot didn’t flare up after playing on it Monday night. “He felt OK today,” Hornacek said. “We’ll continue to monitor it but it doesn’t seem to be a real major deal.” . . . Hornacek also said Ntilikina, who was ineffective Tuesday in 11 minutes, is feeling better. Ntilikina has been fighting a cold the last several days.