GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Enes Kanter is more concerned about the Knicks making the playoffs than he is about the Turkish government trying to jail him.
Turkey’s state-run news agency is reporting that prosecutors are seeking more than four years in prison for Kanter on charges that he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter.
“Four years. I was like, ‘That’s it? Only four years? All the trash I’ve been talking?’ ” Kanter said Wednesday. “I promise you guys it doesn’t really bother me a little, even one bit. My thing is just going out there and just playing basketball.”
Kanter heard about the news Wednesday morning, and twice said, “I’m good.” He is a vocal supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric blamed by Turkey for last year’s failed military coup. Gulen, who has denied the allegations, has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Anadolu Agency says an indictment prepared by the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office accuses Kanter of insulting the president in a series of tweets he posted in May and June 2016.
Kanter has referred to Erdogan as “a dictator” and called him “the Hitler of our century.” On Wednesday, Kanter called Erdogan “a maniac” and said he will continue to “pray for all these innocent people in Turkey.” He also said it would drive Erdogan “crazy” if the Knicks make the playoffs.
“I think that stuff is not really going to bother me,” Kanter said. “You guys were seeing today that I was out there having fun, playing basketball and practicing with my teammates. I think that stuff really don’t bother me because I’m used to it.
“You guys are going to say, ‘How do you get used to, like, prison, this and that, whatever?’ I think it’s just nothing to me, man, because I’m in America. I’m good. My focus right now is playing basketball and just winning, and just thinking about playoffs. I don’t really think about all this stuff, whatever. They can do whatever they want to do.”
Kanter came to the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade and is averaging 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds. While still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kanter was detained in Romania on May 20 because his Turkish passport was canceled. He was able to return to the United States after American officials intervened.
“That dude is maniac,” Kanter said. “America you’ve got freedom of speech — or you had — you’ve got freedom of speech. You’ve got freedom of whatever you want to say. It’s a free country. But it’s not like that in Turkey.
“You cannot criticize or you cannot even say nothing bad about the dude, Erdogan. Just like say he’s a bad guy and you’re in a prison. It’s politics. People can choose or say whatever they want to say. I think right now the situation there is pretty messed up. Right now, I’ve said this before, my thing is just focus on basketball. If we make playoffs, then that will drive him crazy. So that’s what I’m really focused on right now, just make the playoffs and drive this dude crazy.”
Kanter said every NBA team is shown on Turkish television except for the Knicks, and that Thunder games didn’t air there last year. He is resigned to the fact that he can’t return to Turkey, where some of his family members still live. The Associated Press reported that Kanter would be tried in absentia.
“I’m good, man,” Kanter said. “I’m a New Yorker now, huh? If you guys accept me, I’m from here now. I get my passport in two, three years, I hope. But I don’t really think about that stuff. I don’t let all this distract me or my teammates.
“If I step on that court and if I think about even a second that what’s going on in my life, then I’d be selfish and I’d be cheating my teammates. Right now my focus is just going out there and having fun with my teammates, man. Just keep smiling.”