Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter Discusses Signing With Blazers, Role Under Stotts, Future In WWE

For Enes Kanter, joining the Trail Blazers as a free agent signified his willingness to sacrifice for a winning team. He began the 2018/19 season with the Knicks, but his minutes started to decline when the franchise committed to developing its younger players with an eye toward June’s draft.

Kanter’s stint in New York ended early, culminating in a final meeting between him, head coach David Fizdale, president of basketball operations Steve Mills, and general manager Scott Perry on the afternoon of February 7. Unable to find a trade, the Knicks wished him well, mutually agreeing on a release that would allow Kanter to select a new home from a list of interested playoff contenders.

“My dream from day one has always been the playoffs,” Kanter told Hoops Rumors this week.

Kanter would ultimately choose to sign with the Blazers in free agency. The team is 8-3 since acquiring the 26-year-old, who holds career averages of 11.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG in eight total seasons with Utah, Oklahoma City, New York, and now Portland.

Kanter spoke with Hoops Rumors to discuss why he chose the Blazers, his new role under coach Terry Stotts, a potential future in the WWE, and more:

Growing up as a kid, is being a basketball player something you’ve always wanted to be?

“Oh yeah, of course. It was definitely a dream come true. I was actually growing up playing soccer a lot, and later I learned I wasn’t really talented there — so I switched sports and went to basketball. I started playing basketball with my first club team at 13 or 14 years old, and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Were there any players in the sport that inspired you along the way? 

“When I was growing up, I was always looking at Hakeem Olajuwon. That was just the one guy I was looking up to. I’d say his game is probably the one I always looked up to.”

So this new deal with the Blazers is just a rest-of-season contract, right?

“Yes, that’s correct.”

Aside from the Blazers, I heard the Celtics and Lakers expressed a lot of interest in signing you as a free agent. Were there any other teams outside of Portland you were considering?

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Northwest Notes: Exum, Wolves’ Search, Middleton, Towns

Jazz reserve guard Dante Exum will miss at least two more weeks due to a bone bruise on his left ankle, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Exum hasn’t played since January 5. He was averaging 7.4 PPG and 2.7 APG with the second unit in 39 games. Exum signed a three-year contract with an annual base salary of $9.6MM over the summer.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves have yet to contact any potential executives or coaches as possible replacements for GM Scott Layden and interim head coach Ryan Saunders, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Saunders, son of former Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, was elevated when owner Glen Taylor fired Tom Thibodeau. Taylor is expected to use the rest of the regular season to evaluate Layden and Saunders, Krawczynski adds.
  • The Thunder showed a lot of interest in Bucks swingman Khris Middleton prior to the 2012 draft, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Middleton tore the meniscus in his right knee in early November of his final college season with Texas A&M and it affected his play, causing his draft stock to tumble. He was selected in the second round by Detroit with the 39 overall pick.
  • The Trail Blazers are in a better spot than they were last season entering the stretch run, an Associated Press story notes. They were sixth in the West a year ago at the All-Star break but held the fourth spot this season. Moreover, the Blazers picked up some reinforcements this winter by signing center Enes Kanter and trading for guard Rodney Hood.
  • It wouldn’t be surprising if Nuggets forward Trey Lyles signs his $3.7MM qualifying offer, Mike Singer of the Denver Post opines. Lyles’ production has fallen off recently and he may not even stay in the playoff rotation, Singer continues. The Nuggets are thin at the power forward spot, which would increase the odds of them extending the qualifying offer and making Lyles a restricted free agent. However, he’s a poor 3-point shooter and will probably have a tough time attracting an offer sheet, Singer adds.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has entered the league’s concussion protocol after being involved in a car accident on Thursday, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. The Timberwolves’ star big man will not play against the Knicks on Friday. That will end his streak of 303 straight starts.

Northwest Notes: Kanter, Morris, Exum, Lillard

Enes Kanter‘s decision in free agency came down to two teams: the Trail Blazers and Lakers. Kanter, of course, chose to join the Blazers less than two weeks after being waived by the Knicks, labeling one major reason why he made his choice.

“I think it’s just the culture,” Kanter said, according to Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. “After I got released from the Knicks I got a lot of offers but I just wanted to wait. After (Blazers president of basketball operations) Neil (Olshey) talked to me, I was like ‘You know what, I think Portland is the team that I want to go to because I already know their good culture from four years ago when they offered be the contract.’ I think it’s the best decision for me. Then Dame (Lillard) texted me and I was like, ‘You know what, this is the best place that I can (be).’ Be with the team and go far.”

Kanter, a bruising center who holds career-averages of 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, is expected to provide depth off Portland’s bench as the postseason nears. He has an opportunity to prove his worth on a competitive team ahead of free agency, joining the Blazers as a locker room leader and veteran presence.

“It’s amazing, like a first year of school,” Kanter said. “I was actually nervous but I think they help me a lot. Amazing locker (room). From the first moment that I stepped in everybody was trying to help, talking to me about lots of stuff. It’s become very easy, I feel like I’ve been a part of this team for a long time from the first day.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • New Thunder forward Markieff Morris was cleared two weeks ago and is “feeling great,” Royce Young of ESPN tweets. Morris officially signed with Oklahoma City this week, having being diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia in his neck early last month.
  • Dante Exum participated in his first practice with the Jazz on Thursday since suffering a left ankle sprain in January, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes. “It was great,” teammate Rudy Gobert said about seeing Exum in practice, according to Woodyard. “I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot.” Exum was re-evaluated by the team and ruled out for Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, though his return date doesn’t appear to be far off. He’s missed 17 straight games with the injury.
  • Blazers star Damian Lillard explained why he’s stayed with the team throughout his career, appearing on the Posted Up podcast with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes this week. “I’m not willing to sell myself out for championships,” Lillard said. Lillard, drafted by Portland in 2012 with the No. 6 overall pick, is currently in his seventh season with the franchise.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Mudiay, Middleton, Kanter

The Knicks are about to have an overcrowded situation at point guard, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Frank Ntilikina is close to returning from a groin strain and Emmanuel Mudiay has nearly recovered from a strained left shoulder. Mudiay practiced today, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley, while Ntilikina was held out of practice and will be re-evaluated Friday.

When they’re cleared to play, both guards will be sharing time with Dennis Smith Jr., who took over the starting role after being acquired from the Mavericks in late January, and possibly Kadeem Allen, who has impressed coaches since being signed to a two-way contract last month.

Allen could be sent to the G League once everyone is healthy, Berman notes, or the Knicks may want to see more of what he can do at the NBA level. Mudiay could be the odd man out as he’s headed toward free agency and seemingly has little prospect of re-signing in New York now that the organization has committed to Smith.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • If Kyrie Irving is unavailable, New York might target Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in hopes of pairing him with Kevin Durant, Berman speculates in a separate story. Middleton had a 20-point performance in his first All-Star game, then sidestepped questions about free agency. “I’m having a great career so far — that’s all I’m worrying about,” Middleton said. “I’ll think about the summertime in the summertime. We have a lot more work to do, hopefully. We’re playing great basketball. That’s all I’m worrying about.” Because Middleton doesn’t necessarily project as a full max player, Berman suggests the Knicks could sign him and have money left over to keep DeAndre Jordan, who is a friend of Durant’s.
  • The Knicks might find it more difficult to lure Durant as long as James Dolan remains the team’s owner, states Frank Isola of The Athletic. A rumor that Dolan might have interest in selling the team was dismissed as “100% false” by MSG Co. on Monday. Isola notes that the organization’s long history of failure under Dolan could make Durant think twice about coming to New York.
  • Although his time with the Knicks didn’t end well, Enes Kanter would still endorse the franchise to any free agents who ask him, tweets New York sportswriter Brian Heyman. “It’s a very good organization. Good people. … Amazing city,” Kanter said. “So I think that they have a really good chance to get good superstars.”

Trail Blazers Sign Enes Kanter

10:15pm: The Blazers have officially signed Kanter, the club confirmed in a press release.

3:50pm: After being released by the Knicks last week, Enes Kanter has lined up a new NBA home, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Kanter and the Trail Blazers have reached an agreement on a deal.

Kanter confirmed the news himself, tweeting that he’s signing with Portland for the rest of the season. Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter) that the Trail Blazers beat out multiple suitors, including the Lakers, for the big man’s services.

Things have gone full circle now between Kanter and the Blazers, who originally signed him to a four-year, $70MM offer sheet during 2015’s free agent period. The Thunder matched that offer and retained Kanter, then later traded him to the Knicks. The veteran center was in the final year of that four-year contract this season before New York waived him, allowing him to return to the free agent market.

The Blazers roster that Kanter is joining now looks much different than it did in 2015, and the role he’ll play probably won’t be the same as the one the team envisioned four years ago. However, he’s expected to see a “good share of minutes” in Portland, according to Wojnarowski. The 26-year-old figures to slot in as Jusuf Nurkic‘s backup at the five, perhaps cutting into Meyers Leonard‘s and/or Zach Collins‘ playing time.

While he was ultimately removed the Knicks’ rotation in recent weeks as the team prioritized developing its youth, Kanter was as productive as ever in his 44 games this season, posting a double-double (14.0 PPG and 10.5 RPG) in just 25.6 minutes per contest.

The Blazers won’t have to make a corresponding roster move to officially sign Kanter, since they had an open roster spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Davis, Trade Deadline, Allen

The Knicks were surprised to discover how much Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade value had dropped when they started shopping him, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post. Some of that was because of the ACL injury that has sidelined him for a year with still no clear date for a return. But some executives also expressed reservations about “where his mind was at and his actual skill set,’’ a source tells Berman.

The Knicks had three criteria in any trade for Porzingis: a good young prospect, which they got in Dennis Smith Jr.; enough expiring contracts to offer two max deals in free agency, which Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan provided; and future first-round picks. Of eight to 10 offers that were available, the Dallas deal was the best one that checked all three boxes.

But New York could have gotten much more if it had traded Porzingis prior to the 2017 draft, when former team president Phil Jackson first raised the idea. Berman reports that the Celtics offered a package of young assets, while the Suns were willing to part with Devin Booker along with a draft pick swap that could have brought Lauri Markkanen to the Knicks.

There’s more this morning from New York City:

  • Signing two elite free agents is just one way the Knicks can take advantage of their cap space, Berman notes in the same story. They could also use that money to absorb Anthony Davis‘ $27MM salary in a potential trade with the Pelicans. New York attempted to convince New Orleans GM Dell Demps to accept Porzingis as part of a package for Davis rather than wait for a trade this summer, a source close to Demps tells Berman, but the Pelicans didn’t believe Porzingis would be willing to re-sign in a smaller market. Berman states that the Knicks will become a serious contender for Davis if they land a top-two pick on lottery night.
  • A lack of interest in their available players led to the Knicks being quiet on deadline day, Berman adds. Virtually no one wanted to take on Enes Kanter‘s $18.6MM contract when a buyout was expected; offers for Frank Ntilikina “underwhelmed;” Damyean Dotson sparked some inquiries, but not enough for New York to act; and few teams made offers for Noah Vonleh.
  • G League callup Kadeem Allen continues to impress, Berman and Howie Kussoy write in a separate story. Allen, who signed a two-way contract with the Knicks last month, played in his seventh straight game last night and produced career highs with 14 points and six assists. “He’s a tough little runt. I love him. I really do. He fits my personality,” coach David Fizdale said. “He’s a grimy kid. He’s really worked his way to where he’s at. He keeps getting better and better.”

Knicks Waive Enes Kanter

3:54pm: The Knicks have officially waived Kanter, the team announced today (via Twitter). He’ll clear waivers on Saturday.

2:35pm: Enes Kanter won’t have to worry about a negotiating a buyout in New York, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Knicks plan to release the unhappy center, meaning they will owe him the balance of his $18.6MM contract. The move could be finalized by the end of the day (Twitter link).

Kanter has been frustrated about his reduced playing time under first-year Knicks coach David Fizdale. Kanter began the season as the starter, but dropped down the depth chart as Fizdale created more minutes for Mitchell Robinson and Luke Kornet. Last week’s Kristaps Porzingis trade brought DeAndre Jordan to New York and left Kanter as the fourth-string center.

Kanter was outspoken about his situation and asked management for a trade if he wasn’t going to be used. Madison Square Garden fans have been vocal in their support of Kanter, chanting his name at recent games, but that may have been part of the reason the Knicks decided to act so quickly to get rid of him.

“I don’t know if the organization wants to hear that every game because it’s a little embarrassing,” Kanter said in an ESPN story. “Because after all this [Porzingis] trade and everything that the fans still want me to go out there and play. I don’t know if they wanna hear that chant every game.”

Several teams should be interested in the 25-year-old, who averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in 44 games.

Buyout Market: Ellington, Kaminsky, Gortat, Smith

The Pistons will be an aggressive suitor for Wayne Ellington once he reaches the buyout market, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The Suns are expected to reach a buyout and waive the shooting guard, whom they just acquired from the Heat. The Thunder are also reportedly interested in Elllington. Detroit is seeking a veteran addition at shooting guard after trading starter and impending free agent Reggie Bullock to the Lakers.
We have plenty more buyout market developments:
  • The Hornets will look to reach a buyout with big man Frank Kaminsky after failing to trade him, Sean Deveney of Sports Illustrated tweets. The little-used Kaminsky is making $3.62MM this season.
  • Veteran center Marcin Gortat is interested in joining the Warriors but Golden State will take a wait-and-see approach regarding the waiver wire and buyout market, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Gortat, a starter most of the season, is expected to be waived by the Clippers.
  • The Cavaliers have no plans to discuss a buyout with J.R. Smith and failing to find a trade partner for the shooting guard, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Smith is making $14.72MM this season but his $15,68MM salary for next season is not guaranteed unless he remains on the roster through June 30th.
  • The Raptors’ flurry of activity, including an agreed-upon trade with the Grizzlies for center Marc Gasol, will make them an active participant in the buyout market, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post tweets. Toronto will be down to just 10 players on the active roster, plus two two-way players. That means there will be playing time available for free agents that will soon clear waivers.
  • The Celtics do not have an immediate target to fill their open roster spot, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. Enes Kanter, expected to be bought out by the Knicks as early as today, isn’t believed to be on their radar screen, a source tells Murphy.

Trade/Buyout Rumors: Kaminsky, Vonleh, Kanter, More

The Hornets are still “pushing hard” for a taker for Frank Kaminsky and there are indications that teams are interested, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The fourth-year center will be a restricted free agent this summer and doesn’t appear to be in Charlotte’s long-range plans.

The ninth selection in the 2015 draft, Kaminsky has only appeared in 24 games under new coach James Borrego and is averaging 5.5/2.5/1.1 in about 11 minutes per night. He has fallen completely out of the rotation over the past two months, playing just 41 minutes in Charlotte’s last 23 games.

There’s more to pass along as the deadline gets closer:

  • The Nuggets have expressed interest in acquiring Noah Vonleh from the Knicks, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. Vonleh has been productive in New York since signing a minimum contract, averaging 8.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per night, mostly as a starter. He will be a free agent this summer. Denver has a pair of trade exceptions that Vonleh would fit into and is about $7MM under the luxury tax.
  • While Enes Kanter probably won’t be traded today, he’s expected to reach the buyout market, and rival executives believe the Celtics will be among the teams with interest in him, sources tell Begley (Twitter link).
  • Elsewhere on the buyout market front, Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) adds the Pacers to the list of clubs that will have interest in Wesley Matthews if and when he’s bought out.
  • The Rockets, another team with potential interest in Matthews, still intend to be active on the buyout market after sneaking under the luxury tax threshold today, a source tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Wesley Matthews Headed For Buyout; Warriors May Be Next Stop

We noted earlier tonight that the Knicks plans to begin buyout talks with Enes Kanter if he’s not traded before tomorrow’s deadline. It appears Wesley Matthews is in the same situation and may wind up with the Warriors, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

Matthews was acquired from Dallas last week as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade, but he has an $18.6MM expiring contract and there’s little reason to keep him on one of the league’s worst teams. The Knicks are still hoping to work out a trade and had some interest from the Sixers before they acquired Tobias Harris, Berman adds.

Matthews was just 2 of 11 Tuesday in what the Knicks hoped would be a showcase game, but that won’t affect his popularity on the buyout market. Several teams are expected to make a run at Matthews if he becomes available, including Golden State, which a source says is “intrigued” by the 32-year-old swingman. “The biggest thing is winning,’’ Matthews said Sunday at his introductory press conference in New York, so the interest should be mutual.

Berman adds a few notes on other players:

  • The trade market for Kanter remains light and a buyout appears to be the most likely resolution. “[Knicks GM] Scott [Perry] and I are working together, collaborating and seeing if something makes sense,” said Kanter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein. “If nothing happens [Thursday], we’ll put our heads together.’’
  • DeAndre Jordan, who was also acquired in the Porzingis deal, doesn’t expect to be traded again. He would be happy to stay in New York and serve as a mentor to rookie center Mitchell Robinson. The Knicks have told Jordan they will consider keeping him past this season and may offer him their $5MM room exception if they use all their cap space as planned.
  • Several teams have inquired about Damyean Dotson, with the Kings being the latest to call.
  • New York could have three roster spots to fill with 10-day contracts by the end of the week. The team is watching John Jenkins, whose 10-day deal with the Wizards will expire on Saturday, to see if he becomes available. Jenkins had been playing with the Knicks’ G League affiliate in Westchester before his NBA call-up.