Optimum Customers: Your Newsday access has been extended until Oct 1st. Enroll now to continue your access.

LEARN MORE
TODAY'S PAPER
66° Good Evening
66° Good Evening
SportsBasketballKnicks

Enes Kanter on facing Thunder: ‘It always feels special’ to play former team

Kanter, the 6-11 center who was part of Knicks’ return in Carmelo Anthony deal, has quickly become a fan favorite.

Enes Kanter, front left, and Michael Beasley defend

Enes Kanter, front left, and Michael Beasley defend against Carmelo Anthony at the Garden Saturday night. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The video tribute played and then Carmelo Anthony was introduced, to the sound of mostly loud cheers in his return to the Garden with Oklahoma City on Saturday night.

Enes Kanter soon was introduced for the Knicks, and he heard his fair share of cheers, too.

The Knicks have made out OK after the September trade with OKC. The 6-11 Kanter was the center — and centerpiece — who came in exchange for Anthony, and the Kentucky product has been a double-double waiting to happen. He has been better than advertised defensively, has been willing to play hurt and has been a protector of teammates and a booster of energy.

Doug McDermott came with him in the deal, and the 6-8 forward has helped off the bench.

On Saturday night, the two ex-OKC guys helped beat their old team. Kanter emerged with 10 points, five rebounds and a sore neck from a hard foul; McDermott hit three three-pointers and had 13 points in the Knicks’ 111-96 win.

Anthony scored 12 points and got jeered whenever he touched the ball. The Knicks are 16-13; the Thunder is 14-15.

“It always feels good to beat whoever’s out there,” said Kanter, who was on the losing side when the Knicks played at Oklahoma City in the season opener. “But of course, it feels more special to play against those guys.”

Jeff Hornacek had long known that Kanter offered something special. The Knicks’ coach was an assistant under Tyrone Corbin with Utah in 2011 when Kanter worked out for the Jazz before being made the third overall pick.

“Tyrone, as the story goes, was putting him through drills and Enes lowered his shoulder and knocked Tyrone over,” Hornacek said. “He’s knocking a coach over, a guy that wants to draft him. I think that was a key to say, ‘Hey, let’s get this kid, because if he’s not afraid to do it to the coach, he’s not afraid to do it to another player.’

“So we knew what Enes can provide for us. I’ve been pleased with his defense. He’s really trying to learn what we’re trying to do . . . So he’s been great.”

Kanter, who played two-plus seasons with OKC, is averaging 13.3 points and 10.1 rebounds.

“He’s got a really, really good touch for a big man,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “ . . . And he offensive rebounds as well as anybody.”

The seventh-year pro’s back and hip have been bothering him lately. Then Kanter’s head was knocked back by Andre Roberson when he was about to shoot in the third quarter.

After the game, Kanter was given a neck collar to take home, plus Advil, and was told to get treatment. He said he’ll play at Charlotte on Monday night.

“If it’s not broken, I’m going,” Kanter said.

McDermott, meanwhile, again showed that he can shoot.

“I’ve just got to take more shots, be more aggressive,” he said. “That’s my game. That’s what I’m out there for. They’re doing a great job of finding me.”

New York Sports