Knicks' Enes Kanter says focus needs to be on winning, not development

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Friday, March 16, 2018

GREENBURGH, N.Y. --Enes Kanter has no interest in the New York Knicks -- or any other team out of playoff contention -- giving younger players a chance to develop during games at the expense of winning.

"Let me tell you something, man: They can develop guys in the G League. This is not the time to develop young guys, or whatever, because we're trying to win games here," the Knicks' starting center said on Friday. "This team is paying us a lot of money, everybody, and all the fans are paying a lot money to watch the games and they're paying a lot of money for tickets, so they're not just coming here watching, 'Oh, this guy's getting better. This guy's developing.' No, we're trying to win games here, man.

"I think that's how our mindset should be," he added. "And if they want to develop somebody, they can send him to the G League and we can see some development. But I think right now, we're trying to win games. We're not trying to develop nobody."

The Knicks, losers of nine straight, benched veteran point guard Jarrett Jack after the All-Star break and inserted 21-year-old Emmanuel Mudiay into the starting lineup. The club has also played younger players like Luke Kornet and Isaiah Hicks -- both on two-way contracts -- and Trey Burke and Damyean Dotson more often since the All-Star break. Management and coach Jeff Horancek decided that the club should play younger players more frequently with New York out of playoff contention and Kristaps Porzingis (ACL) out for the sesaon.

Kanter said he isn't against giving minutes to players like Kornet or Hicks, but is vehemently opposed to the idea that the Knicks, who have dropped 17 of 18, are tanking.

"Let me tell you something: The Knicks are paying me money to win games, to go out there and compete and try to win every game. Knicks are not paying me to tank or anything," Kanter said. "So my mindset is to go out there, it doesn't matter if we play the worst team or the best team, I said it before: I didn't get traded here to get a good draft pick. I came here to win games and make the playoffs. So I don't care, we're in whatever stretch we're in right now, I'm just going to go out there and fight every possession."

Entering play Friday, the Knicks (24-45) had the eighth-worst record in the NBA. Before losing 17 of 18, the club had the 12th-worst record in the league. That stretch has coincided with the Knicks calling up Kornet and Hicks from the G League and playing them, although neither player is getting regular minutes. Kanter said on Friday that he didn't have an issue with Hicks or Kornet playing because the Knicks' front line is depleted.

"Right now, if you see we've got a lot of bigs down. I think we need some bodies out there," Kanter said. ".... They can get better during the games because they're playing, they're first-year rookies going against good players. But I'm saying this again man: I'm not here to develop them. I'm here to win games."

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said that the club is trying to balance winning games with giving young players an opportunity to gain experience at the moment.

"I like the philosophy. We're trying to win every game. We go out there and you work hard. It's not like you're just going out there and throwing all the young guys out there at one time. One guy may be playing here and there," Hornacek said. "... We're still trying to win the games and at the same time develop guys. [Kanter's] been a warrior for us all year just trying to go out there every night and win. That's what we want him to continue to do."

The Knicks are well on their way to a fourth consecutive season of at least 50 losses. Hornacek's contract is up after the season and Knicks GM Scott Perry has said the entire organization -- Hornacek included -- will be evaluated after the season.

Hornacek was asked on Friday if he'd like any assurances during the season that he will be back for 2018-2019.

"At the end of the season I'm sure we'll sit down with [management] and figure out what we're doing," he said. "Obviously as a coach, you'd like to know that. But our job right now is take the guys that we have on this team, try to get them better, make them work, and try to do the best we can."