By the time he got off the bench to absorb the boos from the Utah crowd the Knicks were already trailing by 13 points on their way to a 129-97 loss. Kanter, who was pulled from the starting lineup Thursday in Milwaukee, a move that Knicks coach David Fizdale said he wants to try for a while, played just 17 minutes — scoreless for the first time as a Knick — and afterward was questioning his role.
“It’s embarrassing,” Kanter said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re on the road or we’re at home. We’re down by like 40 or 50. It’s very embarrassing. I understand we want our young guys to get better. But it’s very painful to watch it. I try to stay positive and help the young guys get better, but like I said, I have no idea why they’re doing that.
“I don’t understand. This is too early in the season to shut me down. My goal is to go out there and try to be an All-Star this year. That was my goal. But now, look at the situation. You can’t do anything about it. you’ve got to stay positive, just got to stay positive.”
But staying positive seemed beyond his reach on this night. Luke Kornet, who was in the G League for much of the season, has taken the starting center job. He responded with 23 points Thursday, but struggled to try to guard Rudy Gobert, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds by halftime. Kornet had 14 points, but 12 came late in the game long after Gobert had called it a night with the lead reaching as many as 46 points.
“I just want to go out there and play basketball,” Kanter said. “I want to win. I don’t know why they’re shutting me down. I just want to go out there and win. It doesn’t matter starter or come off the bench. I think every players job to just go out there and fight every minute on the court. That’s what I want to do. Just want to go out there and just play basketball. So I don’t understand why they’re shutting me down.”
Kanter is still booed loudly in Utah, where he asked for a trade from after starting his career with the Jazz. He didn’t say the words on this night about his time in New York, but as a free agent at season’s end, he seemed lost.
“I just want to go out there and play basketball and help my team win,” Kanter said. “That’s what all this is about. Just go out there and win. On the bench, not on the bench, I’m trying to cheer for my teammates and trying to do the best I can to stay positive. But like I said I don’t know what the situation is. I don’t know why they’re shutting me down this early.”
According to an NBA official the league has reviewed the incident involving Kanter, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham and determined that Ham acted as a peacemaker to separate the players. The league ruled that no further action is needed for any party.