Enes Kanter has been a healthy scratch for the Knicks over their last four games, all losses. Collectively those games make up the only four outright benchings of Kanter’s seven-plus years in the NBA, and the big man hasn’t taken them sitting down. Or, yes, of course he was sitting down, but while he was sitting down, he was doing an awful lot of griping and rabble-rousing, including egging Knicks fans on during unexpected chants of “WE WANT KANTER!”
On the one hand, Kanter’s got a point. He’s still just 26 years old, and for however imperfect he is as an NBA player, he’s far more established and vastly more capable of playing winning basketball than the guys ahead of him in head coach David Fizdale’s rotation. Yes, the Knicks have incentive to lose games; they’ve got incentive to explore Mitchell Robinson’s vast potential; they’ve got incentive to see if Noah Vonleh can slot in as a modern-type big; they’ve got incentive to see if there’s untapped value in Luke Kornet. But if they did want to win games, right now, Kanter would for sure bring them closer to that goal, even though nothing short of demoting the organization to the developmental league would take them the rest of the way.
Unless the Knicks unexpectedly shift organizational priorities—not out of the question for these bozos!—that’s just how it will go for Kanter, who is on an expiring contract and right now makes more sense as a buyout candidate than a rotation player on a tanking team. Knicks fans—who deserve some credit for wanting their team to use its best players even while the lure of draft lottery gold is yanking the organization in another direction—were once again serenading Fizdale with pro-Kanter chants Wednesday night. But it took an especially lackluster team effort and a lopsided score for Kanter to finally see some court time, in the third quarter, with the Knicks down 16 to the visiting Mavericks. True to form, he made sure to turn the otherwise unremarkable moment into a spectacle:
Seems like no self-respecting NBA player should be so thrilled to take the floor in a Knicks jersey that they’d press their lips to the floor, but Kanter is overtly wielding fan sentiment as leverage in his quest for either playing time or a ticket out of town. Knicks fans ate it up! Unfortunately, Kanter’s performance as an actual basketball man left something to be desired. This was not quite the triumphant return he might’ve envisioned:
Kanter finished with five points on five shots in nine minutes, and a discouraging minus-four in the team’s 114–90 loss. Afterward, Kanter reflected on the moment in his typical, understated style, telling assembled media, “If they know the love of New York I have in my heart, they’d retire my jersey.” So clearly this situation is ready to get less stupid, now.