Enes Kanter has made clear his frustration with serving as a role player on a losing team. A source confirmed a report from ESPN that the Knicks have engaged the Sacramento Kings in trade talks centered around the expiring contracts of Kanter and Zach Randolph.
The Kings are tied for ninth place and two games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have not been in the playoffs since 2006 and are trying to make a push behind their young core led by second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox.
According to the report from Adrian Wojnarowski, the Kings are seeking to unload more expiring contracts. The Knicks could be open to sending out players whose deals extend beyond this season, such as Courtney Lee, with the team seeking to clear as much cap space for the summer as possible. Knicks general manager Scott Perry briefly worked alongside Kings GM Vlade Divac before coming to New York.
Kanter was removed from the starting lineup on Dec. 27, with Luke Kornet stepping into his place at center. After a scoreless night in Utah that was followed by a sitdown with Perry, Kanter, 26, averaged 15.8 points and 14.3 rebounds over the last four games. Randolph, 37, has not played for the Kings this season and appears to be serving primarily as a mentor to the younger players. He played for the Knicks from 2007 to 2009.
In his meeting with Perry, Kanter insisted that he did not ask to be traded, but he has made little secret of his disappointment. While he acknowledged he has come off the bench in other stops in his career, doing it for a team focused more on the future than on wins and losses now is hard to swallow.
“I did not ask for a trade, no,” Kanter said. “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 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.”
A Knicks source said recently that the situation would work itself out but noted that the market for the old-school big man isn’t overwhelming. After meeting with Perry, Kanter, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, said he wasn’t worried that the reduced role would limit his marketability.
“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.”