TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- After Enes Kanter found out he had been traded to the Knicks as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal, he woke up in the middle of the night and reminded himself what had just happened.
"When I heard about the news first I was doing a basketball camp for orphans in Oklahoma City," Kanter explained at Knicks' Media Day, where he and Doug McDermott were introduced on the same day Anthony spoke at Oklahoma City's Media Day. "And my friend brought me my phone and he said, 'Hey, this is urgent. And I said, 'I'm doing a camp.' And he said, 'It's urgent."
It was Kanter's manager on the other end of the line informing him of the trade.
"He said don't look too happy because he knows I love New York," said Kanter, who averaged 14.3. points and 6.7 rebounds last year with the Thunder. "And after I went home and packed my stuff, I woke up in the middle of the night and punched myself. I said is this is dream? Is this really happening?" Perhaps Kanter meant that he "pinched" himself, but this is happening. And now Kanter said he believes the Knicks can surprise some people this year.
"This is a great team," he said. "It's a young group of guys, I understand. But I feel like we have something special here. I saw last year I played against those guys but I know one thing, they play hard."
The 6-foot-11 Kanter appears to be part of a logjam at the center position where the Knicks also have veteran Joakim Noah, who is recovering from shoulder surgery in April, and second-year big man Willy Hernangomez, who has been tabbed as part of the team's young core.
"I think Enes is one of the best centers in the league," Hernangomez said. "I met him a couple years ago, I really like him. I'm excited. We just not fighting for being the center, we can play together, too."
How exactly the rotation at the center position will pan out remains to be seen as training camp begins here Tuesday.
"We have a lot of bigs," Noah said. "We have a lot of quality bigs so it's on me to just go out there and bring something to the squad."
Speculation is already rampant that the Knicks may turn around and trade Kanter, who is set to earn about $18 million this year and has a player option for 2018-19. Knicks GM Scott Perry said he remains open to deals that could improve the team going forward.
"Like I said the other day, part of my job is to daily assess our roster, take phone calls and figure out ways to keep getting this basketball team better," Perry said. "So I will continue to do that so that it doesn't impact my thought process really because I was going to do that regardless of who is here and I will continue to do that as long as I'm here."
Both Kanter and Doug McDermott, a jump-shooting forward who reached the Big East Tournament final at Madison Square Garden in 2014 with Creighton, have been criticized for their lack of defensive prowess. Both know they have to play defense to play with the Knicks.
"Yeah, it's something that we've got to be committed to if we want to be on the floor," McDermott said. "Coach [Jeff] Hornacek kind of harped on that to us last night because if we want to play the way we want to play offensively, it starts with stops. You can't really get up and down the floor if the ball is going through the basket every time. That's something I've been working on, trying to become a lot better team defender to help out and get more time on the floor."
Added Kanter: "Defense is about communication and trust. And if you trust your teammate and you know that he has your back then you feel way better on defense. Every time I'm out there I'm going to trust my teammates. That's what I've been working on a lot. Especially this summer. So I think defense is a team thing, it's not one by one, it's a team thing. I think we've got to stick together and just try to do our best."
Kanter said he's excited to come to a city that has such a large Turkish community. Kanter was detained in Romania in May after he spoke out against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"I was with all these guys playing pickup this summer, all these New York guys and they were just friendly, really nice and warm people and I'm really excited to be here, seriously," Kanter said. "And also there's a big Turkish community here, a lot of Turkish restaurants. I'll take you guys out to eat one day."
Kanter also spoke out on President Donald Trump's Twitter latest comments saying NFL players who peacefully protest should be fired.
"Of course it's tough," he said. "Seeing this amazing country go through this tough time is really breaking my heart. I've said this before, I think what happened in Charlottesville is an eye opener and it shows that America still got a lot of work to do, especially with what's going on right now in the NFL and with Trump and everything.
"I just feel bad because when I look at America, when I was at a young age, it's about freedom of religion, freedom of speech, now all of these amazing people are going through this tough time and it's breaking my heart. I'm not from here, I'm from Turkey. But still going through this with these guys, I feel them because I'm going through the same things with my country too. It's tough but I'm praying for you guys."