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Enes Kanter in pain but eager to return to Knicks lineup

The Knicks’ medical staff might not clear Kanter, but Porzingis may get the green light for Monday’s game against Portland.

Enes Kanter of the Knicks reacts in the

Enes Kanter of the Knicks reacts in the fourth quarter against the Raptors at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 22, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Enes Kanter was not walking well when he left the locker room Saturday night in Houston. The back spasms that kept him out of the last two games weren’t stopping him from saying he will try to play Monday night, though.

“I might not be a hundred percent, but I think I’m going to try and play,” Kanter said. “I play with pain probably 95 percent of the season every season. If they think it’s not going to affect me in the long run, I’ll play. It doesn’t matter.”

By they, Kanter meant the Knicks’ doctors and medical staff. He said it’s their decision whether he can play against the Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. But from the way Kanter was walking and talking, it didn’t sound promising.

Kanter said he’s on Mobic, a strong pain medication and anti-inflammatory. He said he feels “way better” than when he first started feeling the spasms Friday morning, but he’s never experienced anything like this.

“Never,” he said. “I mean, I had back issues before, just a spasm that hurt sometimes. But not that bad . . . It’s hard, [strong] medication and it still hurts even when I walk.”

Of course, the Knicks won’t let their starting center play if they believe it can turn into a long-term issue. Kanter said they held him out Friday in Atlanta because had he played and had it worsened, he could have missed multiple weeks.

Kristaps Porzingis probably has a better chance to play Monday. Porzingis missed Saturday’s loss to the Rockets with lower-back tightness but was moving much better than Kanter, who is hoping the three days off will be enough for him to return.

If not, the Knicks’ next game is Wednesday, and then they don’t play until Sunday.

“If I cannot [play], it’s out of my hands,’’ Kanter said. “If they don’t give me a green light, I can’t do nothing about it. But I want to play Monday for sure.”

Kanter blamed himself for Friday’s loss to the Hawks for not being able to help his teammates. He said he was “in the locker room crying like a little baby.”

His energy and rebounding were missed in a game in which the Knicks squandered a 17-point first-quarter lead and fell to the team with the worst record at the time. Kanter is averaging 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds this season.

The next night, the Knicks, without Porzingis and Kanter, built a 22-point lead on Houston less than eight minutes into the game. But they couldn’t sustain that level of play on both ends of the floor, and the Rockets won, 117-102.

The back-to-back losses are pushing Kanter even more to try and play.

“I would still want to play because it’s just my nature,” he said. “I just want to go out there and compete. But right now, I just want it even more.”

If Kanter can’t play, Jeff Hornacek likely will start Kyle O’Quinn again with Willy Hernangomez as the backup. But it’s possible there could be a Joakim Noah sighting.

Noah hasn’t played yet this season, as he’s gone from the NBA’s suspended list to the Knicks’ inactive list. He didn’t make the two-game trip because the Knicks said he had a stomach virus. They could have used him with Kanter out.

Porzingis impresses Olajuwon

Although Porzingis didn’t play Saturday, NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon has seen enough of the Knicks’ franchise player to be impressed with him and how he handles himself in the post.

“He’s very skilled, very smart and the height, he has the advantage in the post,” said Olajuwon, who sat courtside for the game. “The guy has skill with the post game. He’s already amazing. But I think just needs to get much more easier for him.”

Olajuwon, owner of some of the best post moves, including the “Dream Shake,” used to work with players on their inside game. One of his students was former Knick Amar’e Stoudemire. But Olajuwon is a Rockets employee, so he can’t do that anymore.

When he was told Porzingis has done the “Dream Shake,’’ Olajuwon said, “He’s so skilled, he can do whatever he wants on the floor.”

Be like Mike

Filling in for Porzingis, Michael Beasley scored a season-high 30 points Saturday. It’s unclear whether Beasley, who totaled 16 minutes in the previous six games with four DNPs, will be in the rotation when the Knicks are at full strength. Beasley said he’s “used to it” and just has to stay ready.

“I’m just doing what the coach needs, what the coach asks, what my teammates ask,” Beasley said. “If I play 36 minutes or I don’t play in 36 games, I still got to be in the foxhole, my fellas still got to rely on me. I got to be professional.”

New York Sports

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