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It's still only a quarter of the way through the season, but it's pretty clear that the Knicks have gotten the best of the trade with the Thunder so far. Of the three players in the deal, Enes Kanter has made the most significant contribution. It hasn't been just what Kanter has done on the court, but his leadership off the court.
The Knicks just lost all three games with Kanter out of the lineup with back spasms. He returned Wednesday night, and without the injured Kristaps Porzingis for nearly all of the game, Kanter was the man in charge as the Knicks returned to their winning ways. He had a double-double before the half even hit, and led all scorers, finishing with 22 points and 14 rebounds. The knock on Kanter was that he wasn't a good defender, but he's been a force for this team in the paint, especially on the glass.
It's been fun to watch him on the court, but it might be his quotes and comments off the court and on Twitter that have made him the fan favorite of this team and a guy that Knicks fans would vote for Mayor at this point -- just 21 games into the season. And with the love the fans have shown Kanter, including chants of his name Wednesday night, the big man continues to show it right back to the MSG faithful.
"I can't say enough about the fans," Kanter said after the game. "Every time we are out there, we're up by 20, down by 20...they are amazing. They are the sixth man. They are always supporting us. When we are out there, we have to do the best we can. Most importantly, we have to play hard."
Kanter has continued to praise the fans, defend his teammates as he did with Frank Ntilikina against LeBron James, and praise his teammates for his success.
"Players like Jarrett (Jack) and Ramon (Sessions), they have so much experience," Kanter said. "They make everyone better around them. That's why I just love playing with experienced guys like them, they just make the bigs jobs so easy. They are attacking the paint and dumping to the bigs."
Kanter's play on the court has the full attention of his teammates, including Porzingis.
"Enes was a monster today," Porzingis said after the game. "He's just a monster on the boards. That gives us so much energy when he gets those second-chance opportunities for us. He brings so much energy to us. His presence was felt today, by us and by the other team obviously. It's good to have him back."
What hasn't Kanter done? He has insulted LeBron James multiple times, the latest being his Arthur gif Wednesday night on Twitter. He just got reprimanded by the Knicks' front office for telling his team to fight. He called himself a crybaby for missing the game against the Hawks Friday. Wednesday night, he was the catalyst and leader to a Knicks victory with Porzingis down. Fans notice this and have fallen in love with the guy. Meanwhile, the Thunder lost again and are 8-12 on the season. Oh yeah, and the Knicks also got Doug McDermott in that trade, and he has been tremendous off the bench.
If Election Day came a little later, Kanter would be receiving a ton of write-in votes. He's embodied a New Yorker, and he's not even from here. Kanter plays with heart, energy, and isn't afraid of anyone. He's stood up to the best player in the NBA and continues to mock him in hilarious fashion on social media. It's entertaining to see him play, follow his tweets, and hear his comments after every game. So much for him not being able to play defense, huh? Kanter is the most pivotal piece to the Knicks' puzzle.