Due to a longstanding feud with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Enes Kanter will not travel with the Knicks to London when the team faces the Wizards later this month, he told reporters on Friday (Twitter link).
Following a 16-point, 15-rebound performance in a win over the Lakers in Los Angeles, Kanter said he feared for his life if he left the country for the Knicks’ Jan. 17 tilt in London.
“I talk to the front office and decided I’m not going,’’ Kanter said, per the New York Post. “The freaking lunatic, there’s a chance I can get killed out there. I talked to the front office. I’m not going. I’m going to stay here and practice. It’s pretty sad. All this stuff affects my career in basketball. I want to help my team win, but because of one lunatic guy I can’t even go there to do my job.
“Oh yeah, they got a lot of spies there. I could get killed very easy. It would be a very ugly situation.”
After Kanter criticized Erdogan in June 2016 on Twitter, his passport was canceled by the Turkish Embassy in May 2017. The 26-year-old was detained in Romania and an arrest warrant was issued by the Turkish government, but he was able to return to the United States.
Kanter said he will practice while the team is overseas in London. The big man was recently demoted to the bench in favor of rookies Luke Kornet and Mitchell Robinson. He subsequently met with Knicks’ general manager Scott Perry to discuss his role but reportedly did not request a trade. It’s possible the Knicks, who sport a 10-29 record, deal Kanter ahead of the Feb.7 trade deadline.