GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Enes Kanter was working on his post moves after practice, showing no sign of lingering issues from back spasms that kept him out of the past three games.
Kanter is probable to play Wednesday against Miami. He said he still gets “a little bit scared” to make certain moves because he doesn’t want to aggravate it and miss more time. Kanter could barely move over the weekend.
“I’ll be fine,” Kanter said Tuesday. “I’ll get over it [Wednesday].
“I might be a little rusty. I might not get 20 points and 20 rebounds. My thing is I’m just going to go out there and compete. That doesn’t matter five minutes or 10 minutes, I’m going to do my best.”
His return would be a welcome sight for the Knicks, who lost all three games without Kanter by double figures. Kanter feels compelled to come back and help the Knicks end this skid.
“It’s really tough, man,” Kanter said. “Last quarter [Monday] night one of my teammates told me, ‘Hey, you better get healthy soon. We need you bad out there.’ It broke my heart so bad. I cannot describe with words. It just made me feel terrible.”
It’s this kind of attitude that has endeared Kanter to the Knicks. He’s been nothing but team-first since being acquired from the Thunder in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and it helps that he’s been one of the team’s most valuable players.
Kanter is averaging 13.6 points and 10.2 rebounds. He’s provided the Knicks (10-10) with energy, toughness and many extra shots. He’s averaging 3.7 offensive rebounds per game.
“He gives us a lot of energy,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “The second-chance points, the rebounds he gets, he runs the floor hard, he plays hard. He gives a lot of energy to our team so obviously he’s important.”
Kanter has also played the role of enforcer. He got in LeBron James’ face to defend rookie Frank Ntilikina.
When the Knicks were getting pummeled by Portland Monday, Kanter said he told one of his teammates to “go out there and fight somebody, get a technical foul, I will pay for the fine.” Michael Beasley got into it with Jusuf Nurkic, and Beasley and Ntilikina were hit with technicals. Kanter said Knicks’ officials approached him about his comments.
“The front office told me I cannot say stuff like that,” Kanter said. “It’s a learning process. This is my second language. When I say fight it means compete, play hard, compete. You get a tech, you get a tech. They told me I cannot say stuff like that. I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry NBA, my fault.”
Kanter is unapologetic about his approach to basketball though. He believes his team is his family, and he will fight for them and with them. After coming off the bench the past two years for the Thunder, Kanter is starting and making a major impact. But he said personal achievements don’t matter to him. The goal is making the playoffs.
“Everybody wants to start. Everybody wants to be a star,” Kanter said. “My thing is if we make the playoffs, I’m good, man. If we make the playoffs, I’m good. I don’t want MVP. I don’t want [most improved player], sixth man of the year. We make the playoffs I don’t want none of these things. The only thing that matters is the playoffs.”
Kanter had difficulty talking about how valuable he is to the team, saying he doesn’t like to “separate myself” from the rest of the group. But he’s been a perfect complement to Porzingis, and helped the Knicks rank in the top three in rebounding differential.
They grab 4.5 more than their opponents, and are sixth in offensive rebounds per game.
“If you look at this team it’s like a puzzle,” Kanter said. “If you took one piece out it’s just not going to look right. It’s just not me, every piece of this team is important.
“Every piece of this team is really important and valuable. If [you] take one piece out . . . we’re not going to be as good. Everybody has to come together. That’s what we said after the game, ‘Stay together on three. One, two, three stay together.’ That’s the most important thing.”