Jake Brown | Twitter |
It has not taken very long for Enes Kanter to become one of the new fan favorites here in New York. At 7-6, I'd say it took 13 games for that to be true, but really it may have just taken one game and a couple of quotes Monday night.
Kanter stood up for his rookie teammate Frank Ntilikina not just in the headlines, but on the court. He showed what a tremendous teammate he is, and what an important voice he is in the locker room. Kanter wasn't going to let LeBron James say or do things to their rookie point guard and let the future Hall of Famer run all over them. Sure, the Knicks blew a 23-point lead and lost the game Monday to the Cavaliers, but Kanter getting in LeBron's face when he was bumping Ntilikina was a big statement.
Then what he said after the game about LeBron was important to send a message and defend his team. Kanter clearly wants to win and he knows what being part of a team is, and being a leader. So far, he looks like the veteran leader on this squad.
This is New York. The fans here love a guy who speaks out and has that New York grit. Kanter displayed that in his comments, and he made sure to do it on the court as well. Being there Monday, the fans loved that. I loved seeing it. It's been a while since we have seen that grit and tenacity in a Knicks team, and it seems like they've got it.
The Knicks are confident no matter who they go up against, and they aren't letting LeBron think he's the King of their city. This team has needed some toughness to them for a while, and Kanter defines that. He said we have our king in Kristaps Porzingis, who has been playing like one.
Not to mention, Kanter has been playing really well. He's averaging a double-double with 14.1 PPG and 11 RPG. That's a tie for a career-high in RPG. He's got a career-high shooting percentage at an astounding 63.6 percent, career-high free-throw percentage at 86.4 percent, and a career-high in APG and SPG. He's been almost an automatic bucket when he gets the ball in the low post. Now the question is what will change with Joakim Noah likely returning tonight.
Kanter should still see around 25 MPG. Noah is really going to have to earn minutes, starting on the defensive end. He's out to prove himself this year, but with how good Kanter is playing and some solid play on both ends from Kyle O'Quinn, Noah isn't going to see many minutes. The good thing about his return is that O'Quinn can now play more power forward instead of center, were Noah can be the backup.
Jeff Hornacek will have to mix and match depending on the opponent and who they are throwing out there. The Knicks have preached defense and if Noah can excel on that side of the ball and just improve a bit offensively and from the free throw line, he'll be a nice addition to the Knicks bench. They'll also have two vocal leaders on and off the court in Kanter and Noah, which will be valuable.