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Enes Kanter says he misses playing basketball as Knicks develop younger players at his position

Enes Kanter of the Knicks in the second

Enes Kanter of the Knicks in the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 21. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Enes Kanter describes himself as a man without a home. He has protection everywhere he goes in case those sympathetic to the Turkish president wish to do him harm. He’s essentially lost his job, and Knicks coach David Fizdale told him as much on Sunday, Kanter said. Soon, too, he might have to relinquish that Knicks jersey he loves so much.

And when he does feel at home — such as on Monday, when an injury to Luke Kornet meant he got to check in to a loud ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd — it likely is destined to be short-lived.

Kanter doesn’t want to leave. Though he stopped short of saying he has asked for a trade, he acknowledged that the promise of a permanent seat on the bench is unappealing. Fizdale and Kanter gave the same version of the conversation: Developing Mitchell Robinson and Kornet is the priority; playing Kanter is not.

On Monday, that meant he was the fourth center in, after a short-lived experiment with Noah Vonleh at the position. Kanter had 11 points and three rebounds in 19:14 in a 127-109 loss to the Thunder. He fully expected to get the DNP, he said, and even got his cardio done before the game. But then Kornet sprained his ankle. The extent of the injury is unknown and an MRI is scheduled for Tuesday.

“I love it here, but in the end, I want to play basketball,” Kanter said about a potential trade ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline. “I miss playing basketball . . . It’s tough because they’re trying to give the young guys a lot of minutes and get them better, but it’s not like I’m 32, 33 years old. I’m 26 years old and I want to go out there and compete.”

It is the latest blow in a brutal stretch for Kanter, who missed the Knicks’ trip to London because he feared for his life after being critical of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last week, a report surfaced that Turkish prosecutors were attempting to have Kanter extradited on terrorism charges, and Kanter says he doesn’t even feel safe in the United States.

“Anything can happen, anytime, anywhere,” he said. “Even when I go grocery shopping, even when I go to practice, I always have someone with me. The only place I go alone is the bathroom. Anywhere else, I always have someone with me. But it comes with it. If you’re standing up for something, it definitely comes with it.”

And then there’s all this. Though his position on the Knicks may pale when compared to his off-the-court issues, Kanter made it clear that he is unhappy.

“I was very disappointed,” he said. “I definitely don’t agree with the decision . . . The first 41 games, I did not miss a game. And they put me in fourth or whatever [in the] rotation. It definitely hurts. It hurts a lot.”

Kanter said he will leave all trade talk to his agent and general manager Scott Perry. In the meantime, he’ll try to find the joy in whatever snippets of home he can gather.

“It means a lot,” he said of the crowd’s support, “because it’s like now I don’t have a house, I don’t have a home. When I check in, the whole crowd was up and was clapping, cheering for me, so it definitely showed me a lot. It just gives me so much hope.”

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