GREENBURGH, N.Y. — LeBron James took a parting shot at the Knicks on Tuesday morning. And once again, Knicks center Enes Kanter stepped up to reject it.
The morning after engineering a 23-point comeback against the Knicks, James posted a photo of himself at Madison Square Garden along with a description that declared that he was king of New York. Kanter, however, wasn’t having any of it.
“We’ve already got a king. It’s Kristaps Porzingis,” Kanter said at practice Tuesday, referring to the NBA’s third-leading scorer. “Sorry about that.”
Not only do the Knicks have a king, it appears they also have a fearless and funny 6-11 knight.
Kanter, a Knick for just 13 games, seems to be more than ready to ride into battle whenever he perceives someone from his team is being attacked.
Kanter defended rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina on Sunday after James suggested he wasn’t worthy of being picked No. 8 in the draft. He then stuck up for Ntilikina again on the court Monday night, after James refused to get out of the point guard’s way. After the game, Kanter went on to take a swipe at LeBron’s nickname saying, “I don’t care who you are, what you call yourself, King, Queen, Princess, whatever you are. You know what, we’re going to fight. Ain’t nobody out there gonna punk us.”
Kanter said he played basketball a few times with James this summer, and off the court has no issues with him.
“Outside of basketball, I’ve got no problems with him,” Kanter said on Tuesday. “But I’ve been telling my teammates, whenever we step on the court, there are no friends. Don’t shake anybody’s hand, because they are not going to feel bad for us. Every day, every night’s a war.
“Every day we’re going out there it’s a war. Don’t be friendly. Don’t shake nobody’s hand, don’t smile at nobody because those guys are your enemy. Those guys are not your friends. So I just keep talking to my teammates. We’ve got to bring that dirtiness in us.”
Talk about summoning your inner Charles Oakley. In an era where personal friendships often seem to trump team bonds, this is an attitude that has not been seen at Madison Square Garden in years. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek certainly doesn’t seem to mind it.
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“I like how our guys stood up about the comments on Frank,” Hornacek said. “They stood up for him. That’s a bond of a team sticking together. It’s great to see.”
Kanter, who came to the Knicks in the Carmelo Antony trade right before the start of training camp, credits Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook for teaching him how to be a teammate. Kanter said before coming to Oklahoma City from Utah in a trade he was hugging and giving “European kisses” to all his friends on other teams before tipoffs.
“I remember I was in OKC and I was saying ‘Hi’ to a couple of my [former] teammates and I was getting yelled at, cussed at by Russell,’’ Kanter said. “Because he’s got the same mentality. Whenever you step on that court, you try to kill them. We’ve got to bring the same thing here. We’ve got no friends. We cannot smile.’’
Kanter remains close friends with Westbrook and recently texted him “happy birthday brother.” But when the Knicks opened the season in Oklahoma City, there was no pregame acknowledgment.
“He did not shake my hand. I did not shake his hand,” Kanter said with a smile that seemed to say that is just the way it has to be.