Enes Kanter stood before a reporter after a 115-86 blowout win against the Miami Heat at MSG. The interview was short, he was asked about Kristaps Porzingis‘ health after his ankle was stepped on, early in the first quarter of the game. Before addressing the question, Kanter emphatically exclaimed his love for the New York fans. He called them an essential part to the team, they were the sixth man. His love for the fans and his team has made him a hands down favorite among all New York. Despite being a Knick for only a short time.
Enes Kanter: New Fan Favorite in New York
Only 21 games into the season, Enes Kanter has won over the hearts of most, if not all the New York Knick fans. It wasn’t like that from the start however. He was acquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade and was unknown to the casual basketball fan. Kanter had played exclusively on the west coast up until that point. He was on small market teams, the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Most fans were unsure why he was the centerpiece in the trade. New York was so used to watching Carmelo Anthony year after year. Kanter didn’t seem like a worthy replacement. He was a good player, but didn’t seem like the up and coming star the fans wanted in return. Kanter would soon show that he was more than the average center.
Clash With the King
Ever since being being traded, Kanter has fully embraced New York. Most notably through his twitter which he uses a lot to connect with the fans and occasionally the media. He had become likable if anything else. He had performed great in his early campaign for New York and was an important piece to their early success.
The Knicks were preparing for their second regular season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Garden. LeBron James made headlines prior to the game, praising the Dallas Mavericks young rookie Dennis Smith Jr. James took what seemed to be an attempted jab at Phil Jackson and Knicks management. He had a grudge with them dating back to last season. Knicks players and fans took what James said to heart, believing it was also a knock on current Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina. Rightfully so, he didn’t think about the effect his words would have, especially on someone like Ntilikina. Kanter immediately responded on twitter coming to Ntilikina’s defense.
The real action came when Ntilikina was trying to inbound a ball and James stood in his way. During the previous play, James had an easy dunk. He bumped into Ntilikina as he tried to inbound the ball. Ntilikina shoved James out of the way and Kanter came running over to his rookies defense. Getting in James’ face, the fans went crazy as this heated rivalry became physical. Kanter showed that these weren’t the Knicks of old. These new Knicks would no longer be pushed around by the big bully Cavaliers. He called the Knicks his family in a post game interview and that he would die for any of them.
At that point it was very clear the Knicks got more than just a center in their trade. Kanter had a whole other set of skills that couldn’t be recorded on a stat sheet. You can feel his energy through the TV, when he cheers his teammates on from the bench after a big play. These intangibles have given the Knicks and identity. Fans applauded Kanter not for only defending his team, but for doing it against one of the best players in the world. Kanter showed a type of moxie and swagger fans hadn’t seen in a while.
Back Spasms and the Return
Kanter missed his first game of the season against the Atlanta Hawks with back spasms. A game this Knicks lost in heartbreak fashion. Although the Knicks had their opportunity to win the game, Kanter blamed the loss on himself in a post game interview. He didn’t have to. Kanter showed how seriously he takes this game and team. Kanter put the team before himself and deeply took this loss to heart.
The Knicks went on to lose the next three games in Kanter’s absence. Kanter returned, after missing only three games. His first game back was against the Miami Heat. With Kristaps Porzingis leaving the game only playing four minutes, the fan base felt deflated. Porzingis’ injury seemed serious and his health was in limbo. Kanter went on to have his best game this season. He scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Porzingis may be the best player on the team, but Kanter is definitely one of the co pilots. His talent is vitally important to the teams success.
A Blessing to New York
It isn’t all about Kanter’s attitude. He is quickly having one of the best years in his young career. Averaging 14 points and ten rebounds per game. He is also top three in field goal percentage among the entire NBA shooting 64 percent. Kanter has shown a variety of offensive skills that have allowed him to get to the basket and finish. He is one of the best players to have in the paint. Kanter has become the biggest blessing that no New York fan could have expected. Most fans cannot imagine what it was like not to have him on the team. Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter have slowly become one of the best and most underrated front courts in the NBA. Although this young team will have their struggles. Enes Kanter is one of the main reasons to watch the Knicks.
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