Knicks' Enes Kanter likely starting after all with Luke Kornet injured

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Enes Kanter will likely be back in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks on Wednesday, two days after he complained about a reduced role with the club.

Knicks coach David Fizdale told reporters Tuesday that he's "leaning toward" starting Kanter on Wednesday against the Houston Rockets due to an ankle injury to Luke Kornet, the Knicks' starting center.

"With Luke going down, we're right back where we were," Fizdale said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm leaning toward him [starting] because [rookie centerMitchell [Robinsonis] still running into the same thing with the fouls. And so to try to max out Mitchell's minutes, I have to bring him off the bench right now."

An MRI on Tuesday revealed that Kornet had suffered a left ankle sprain and bone bruise. Kornet was in a walking boot on Tuesday. Fizdale said he hoped Kornet could return in two weeks. Kanter will likely start at center during Kornet's absence.

"Right back in the mix," Fizdale said of Kanter.

Late last week, Fizdale told Kanter that he'd prioritize playing Kornet and Robinson ahead of him at center. Developing young players has been a priority for New York for much of the season. Their 10-35 record has put them in position to give players like Kornet and Robinson consistent minutes over veterans like Kanter. Fizdale has also told veterans Lance Thomas, Courtney Lee and Trey Burke that they'd be playing fewer minutes as the club gives younger players an opportunity.

Kanter, a free agent this summer, said on Monday that he didn't agree with the coach's decision.

"I was very disappointed. There was nothing to be happy about, so I'm not happy and I definitely don't agree with the decision, of course," Kanter said after the Knicks' loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Teams have talked to the Knicks about potential trades for Kanter ahead of the Feb. 7 trade deadline, sources say. 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 say. 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 said Monday that he hadn't requested a trade. He was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old is averaging 14.4 points and 11 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game but has struggled at times on defense. Entering play Friday, he ranked 60th out of 60 qualifying centers in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus.

Kornet had started nine of the Knicks' past 10 games, averaging 11.3 points and shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc.

ESPN's Ian Begley contributed to this report.