GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Enes Kanter believes he's on a Knicks team that should challenge for a spot in the NBA playoffs, but says folks in his native Turkey -- a nation of almost 80 million -- are unable to watch his games because he's been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Yeah, I got a lot of friends and family [who] cannot watch my games," Kanter told SNY.tv on Thursday after practice.
"They don't even show no New York Knicks games in Turkey because of me. Last year they didn't show no OKC games. This year no New York games just because of me. And they ban my Twitter in Turkey, too." One league source said it's "obvious" the Turkish government is "avoiding showing Kanter's games," but that basketball fans in Turkey with NBA League Pass can "watch whatever games they want." A spokesman at the Turkish consulate told SNY.tv by phone, "I cannot know if these channels are also blocking Enes Kanter's games or not, so I cannot know it."
From where Kanter sits, folks in Turkey are missing some good basketball.
The Knicks (3-4) had won three straight, including a game at Cleveland, before falling on Wednesday night to James Harden and the Houston Rockets. On Friday, the Knicks host Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns (4-4), winners of two straight and three of four.
"Let me tell you something, man, people don't know it," Kanter told SNY.tv. "People are saying that we're so young, whatever. People don't understand, if you're young, that means we got fresh legs. We got a lot of energy, we can compete. So I don't think it's an excuse, we can take advantage of that. Whenever we're out there, just compete and just do our best.
"If we stay together and we play our basketball, yes I believe it" that they are a playoff team. Doug McDermott, who came to the Knicks with Kanter in the Carmelo Anthony trade, also thinks the Knicks are a playoff team despite many people projecting them to be in the lottery.
"We don't look at ourselves as a rebuilding team," the former Creighton star told SNY.tv. "We're young, we got some good young pieces but we want to win games. That's been our goal. We want to show people that we're capable and we beat some teams that are playoff teams and we feel like we're a playoff team.
So we're approaching every day trying to get better, trying to win. That's all we've been talking about."
As for Kanter, earlier this year, the Turkish government issued a warrant for his arrest, maintaining he was part of a terrorist group. Kanter has been a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher and political figure who has lived in exile in Pennsylvania for the past 15 years. He is sought by the Turkish government for his alleged involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
On May 20, Kanter was briefly detained by airport officials in Romania after his passport was revoked by the Turkish government. He was allowed to return to the U.S. on May 22 with a green card. His father was also held in Turkey this year and Kanter said it was "because of my criticism of the ruling party."
"I'm still waiting to become an American citizen," Kanter said. "I got a green card but right now I'm going to get a special something to go to Canada to play against the Raptors [on Nov. 17]. Right now I got the passport but it's not working because the government shut it down."
He added: "You play NBA to represent your country. That's weird that I try to represent Turkey in NBA but when you're own country does that it makes it really sad."
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