Enes Kanter was back and basketball was fun again at Madison Square Garden.
After missing three games — all of them losses — Kanter returned to the court and the Knicks returned to playing the type of basketball that makes one think that they have a chance to contend for a playoff spot this season.
The Knicks crushed the Miami Heat, 115-86, Wednesday night. And they did it despite Kristaps Porzingis leaving for the locker room and not returning after rolling his right ankle just 2:30 into the game.
Kanter, who scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, is a player who knows how to have fun both on and off the court.
During his three-game absence, he poked fun at LeBron James on twitter for getting ejected and encouraged an un-named teammate to “go fight with somebody” during an ugly loss to Portland.
And Wednesday night, with Porzingis out of the game, he took it on himself to be an emotional leader. He fist-pumped after scoring, he slapped the court after Miami turned over the ball and he hauled down rebound after rebound to the point at which he already had a double-double with two minutes to go in the second quarter.
“I was so excited. I was so hungry. I just wanted to go out there and bite someone’s ear off,” Kanter said after the game about his return.
Suffice it to say, it’s been a long time since the Knicks had someone who brought that kind of attitude to the game. Coach Jeff Hornacek said that Kanter just brings an infectious sort of energy to the court and his offensive rebounding really can hurt the psyche of opposing teams.
“He got them tonight, which gives us great second-chance opportunities,” Hornacek said of Kanter’s six offensive rebounds. “It’s just that extra shot that you get. It’d demoralizing for a good defensive team that plays good defense for 20 seconds and then a missed shot shot he gets it and lays it back in. Guys kind of feed off of that and it gives us confidence.”
Kanter also has the confidence to take on the greatest player in the game. He said his ongoing battle twitter battle with James is just about having fun.
“We’re just playing basketball. Fans want to see we’re having fun out there,” Kanter said. “I’m just saying we have to have fun. We’re doing this job and the fans want to see us have fun. I have nothing personal against him. He’s the best player in our league. It was a fun tweet and went viral pretty quick.”
Knicks fans have to be pretty happy with the trade that Scott Mills and Steve Perry pulled off for Carmelo Anthony. Though the lead up to the preseason was a bit uncomfortable as it was clear that neither the team nor Anthony wanted him to remain a Knick, the Knicks did the prudent thing in waiting until they could get something of value for their star.
What they got — Kanter and Doug McDermott — turned out to be a lot more value than it first looked.
Maybe it’s because Kanter knew something about being on a winning team after playing in Oklahoma City. This is something you will be hearing a lot about on Dec. 16 when Melo and Oklahoma City make their only trip this season to Madison Square Garden. Right now OKC is struggling while the Knicks are back to being a game over .500.
No one is having more fun than Kanter.
Said Kanter: “I’m not going to go out there and bite a guy’s ear off. I’m going to go out there and play hard, play with a lot of passion and play smart. It’s just competing.”