Enes Kanter on not playing vs. Rockets: 'I deserve way better'

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Friday, January 25, 2019

NEW YORK -- Frustrated Knicks center Enes Kanter all but asked for a trade after he didn't play in a 114-110 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

"I want to play basketball. We're all competitors. I want to play basketball," Kanter said. "So just if you're going to play me here, play me. If not, then just get me out of here."

Knicks coach David Fizdale said Tuesday that he was leaning toward starting Kanter against Houston because of an injury to starting center Luke Kornet.

Kanter, a seven-year veteran, said he was told Wednesday morning that he was starting against the Rockets, but Fizdale and the staff changed the lineup later in the day. Kanter called the lineup change "frustrating."

"My job right now is just cheer for my teammates and try to be a good teammate, [but] what they're doing to me is pretty messed up," Kanter said. "I deserve way better."

Late last week, Fizdale told Kanter that he would be out of the rotation as the Knicks prioritized developing Kornet and Mitchell Robinson,their two young centers.

Kanter expressed his frustration with the decision after Monday's game and was even more aggravated by Wednesday's DNP.

In explaining his lineup decision after the Knicks' loss, Fizdale said he wanted to try to slow James Hardenin pick-and-roll situations. Noah Vonleh started at center.

"I was thinking how much speed I can keep on the floor to just balance it and keep up with him and be able to challenge him," Fizdale said after Harden scored 61 points to lead Houston to a four-point victory. "And obviously, he still went for what he went for, but I thought it at least gave us a chance to compete and win at the end."

Kanter has struggled at times on defense this season. Entering Monday, he ranked 66th out of 67 centers in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus.

Although it isn't unheard of for NBA coaches to change lineups before a game, Wednesday's developments were another instance of friction between Kanter and the Knicks. Earlier this month, Kanter met with Knicks general manager Scott Perry to discuss his frustration about a reduced role.

On Thursday, Fizdale said he wasn't worried about Kanter potentially becoming a distraction for the 10-36 Knicks.

"What are we gonna do, lose some more games?" Fizdale said with a laugh. "I shouldn't make light of it. Sometimes you gotta laugh. No, it's a good lesson for all of them, because they're all gonna end up in different scenarios."

Teams have talked to New York about potential trades for Kanter ahead of the Feb. 7 trade deadline, sources said. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that the Sacramento Kings and Knicks talked about a trade involving Kanter and Zach Randolph as a swap of expiring contracts.

New York does not want to take back salary in a trade of Kanter, sources said. If the Knicks can't find a trade that suits them, the club and Kanter could agree on a buyout, which would allow Kanter to sign with the team of his choice.

Kanter is in the final year of his contract, making $18.6 million this season.

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