DENVER — Enes Kanter revealed that he met with Knicks general manager Scott Perry Monday to express his frustration with the team’s struggles and his diminished role. But he said he has not and will not demand a trade.
Kanter, who had his starting job taken away three games ago, insisted that it isn’t the bench role that is bothering him as much as doing it for a team that has lost eight straight games.
“I did not ask for a trade, no,” Kanter said after scoring 17 points and getting 12 rebounds in the Knicks’ 115-108 loss to the Nuggets. “I did not say, ‘Scott, try and trade me.’ No I did not say that. Because I like it here a lot. And I probably won’t say to Scott’s face, ‘Scott I want to get traded.’ Because I like it here a lot.
“But again, in the end, we all are competitors, basketball players, in the end I like it here so much, but again I want to win. I want this team to get to the playoffs one day. This is my blood, man, I’m sorry. If anyone asks anything else, I’m not going to do it. I’m going out there to get a win every time.”
What the Knicks are asking of Kanter and most of their veterans is to take a secondary role to the task of helping develop the young players on the team. With a 9-29 record and 13 losses in the last 14 games, the Knicks are set on some future plan that includes another lottery pick, clearing cap space this summer — including Kanter’s expiring contract — to chase a star to place alongside Kristaps Porzingis, who has been sidelined all season while rehabilitating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
While Kanter said he has been content to support his teammates and even help Luke Kornet, who has taken over as the starter, he is not happy with a lesser role on a team that has the second worst record in the NBA.
“It’s just, all this anger and frustration is coming from losing,” Kanter said. “It’s not fun to lose 12, 13, whatever in a row. It’s not fun. It’s just tough, man. But obviously I had a meeting with Scott. He just said, ‘You know, this is the growth. This is one of your biggest tests in your career, so just try to be a good teammate.’ That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just help the young guys and try to be the best teammate you can be. So that’s what I’m trying to do. Again, this organization is paying me. I don’t want no free money. So every time I’m out there I’m going to try to get a win.”
Kanter was upset after the blowout loss in Utah Saturday when he was scoreless in 17 minutes. He played better and the team did, too, against the Nuggets. But he only played four minutes in the fourth quarter while the team turned to Noah Vonleh and Kornet.
“Listen man,” Kanter said. “Look, I’m going out there to battle with my teammates and be a good teammate, trying to get a win. It’s in my blood. I’m going to do that every time. I’m not going to do anything else. if they ask me anything else to do it, I’m not going to do it. Every time I’m out there I’m trying to get a win. I hope that is everybody’s mindset.”
It’s not easy for the Knicks to move Kanter, needing to take back equal value to the remainder of his $18 million salary and with the team having no desire to attach a draft pick or take back a contract that extends beyond this season. Kanter said that he isn’t worried about his value in a trade or for free agency, a point he said that Perry made to him, too.
“It’s a little weird, people are calling me from all over the league,” Kanter said. “They’re just saying keep your head up and stay strong. Even my own teammates are texting me and telling me just stay strong and keep your head up. I know what I’m capable of. I know this is the situation so I’m just sucking it up and trying to be a good teammate.
“Even [Perry] said that, just keep your head up. Be good. The whole league knows you. That’s what I’m trying to do. This is a hard situation right now. We are developing the young guys, so I’m just trying to help the young guys and trying to be the best teammate I can be.”