After playing his second game of the bench for the New York Knicks, Enes Kanter seemed visibly upset by the decision. Will his attitude towards the decision cause friction in the locker room?
After the New York Knicks ended their five-game skid with a 115-96 victory against the Brooklyn Nets, Enes Kanter returned with his second less-than-enthusiastic post-game interview, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley:
It was Kanter’s second consecutive game off the bench, after starting every game in his Knicks’ career. Head coach David Fizdale mentioned making changes to the starting line-up, but the 26-year-old center was visibly upset by the perceived demotion, including after Friday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors:
Kanter’s attitude towards his new role hasn’t affected his play on the court, with 11.5 points and 14 rebounds per game since the move in favor of 2018 second-round pick Mitchell Robinson. Kanter is a far superior bench player then he is a starter; however the 26-year-old picked up his player option for this season in order to receive a long term contract in the offseason. Returning to the bench won’t bode well for his free agency especially when he believes he is playing well.
Kanter’s frustration with his new role will be an early test for Fizdale and this new coaching staff. Fizdale’s exit from the Memphis Grizzlies was due in large part due to his fractured relationship with star Marc Gasol. Those questions arose after Fizdale was hired because of the the fractured relationship the Knicks had with their own European star forward, Kristaps Porzingis.
Since Fizdale’s hiring, all parties appear on the same page, as the 7-foot-3 forward continues to rehab from his ACL injury.
While not a star player in the league, Kanter is a respected veteran in the locker. A locker room with 11 players under the age of 25 find influence in their veteran players lead. Kanter is still a important member of the team with his ability to score on the low block and rebound the basketball.
To some Kanter not starting is a non-story as his classic nickname suggest. However, Kanter has played well for the Knicks and for a team who’s objection for the season is to change the culture, needs to make sure that he isn’t left out in the New York cold.