After four straight games logging a DNP, Enes Kanter finally got to take his warmup off and enter the game on Wednesday night at The Garden. And with fans chanting his name, Kanter decided to reciprocate the love right back.
Kanter ran onto the hardwood and kneeled down at center court where he kissed the Knicks logo. It's no secret the Turkish big man loves his team and its fanbase, but he said the kiss was meant as a potential farewell gesture to the fans.
"They know the love of New York I have in my heart," Kanter told reporters after the Knicks' 11th straight loss. "I have no problem with this organization. From Day 1, I loved this city, this organization, the fans. They opened their arms."
Kanter has been in the odd man out in the Knicks' youth movement that head coach David Fizdale has put into full effect. Since his first DNP against the Pacers on Jan. 11, Kanter has seen time in only two of the team's last nine games with Mitchell Robinson and Luke Kornet playing ahead of him. The team is also actively shopping the 26-year-old, along with many other players, as he doesn't fit the "versatile" style of play Fizdale is looking for in his rebuild.
But this time around, Fizdale gave in to the fans' chanting, even though he noted it wasn't their bellowing calls that made him give the nod to Kanter.
"The fans can do whatever they want to do. They can chant whatever they want to chant," Fizdale said. "At the time, it was just what it was. We just weren't playing very good basketball. Again, in all fairness to him, that's what I told him face to face that I'll do -- every chance I get to plug you in there to help the team I'm gonna do it. So tonight was that opportunity."
That opportunity came as a big surprise to Kanter in the third quarter.
"He yelled out my name and I was like, 'Really?" he explained. "I had to look around. 'Is he serious?' I got up and fans started to clap and I was like 'this is really happening.'"
Rust was clearly in Kanter's system, though, as his first field goal attempt was an airball. He admitted, "I was definitely nervous," in the nine minutes he played. He would go on to collect five points.
Kanter had noted earlier last week that there had been no communication between him and Fizdale regarding his role with the team, saying "I wish he [would] communicate with me. I'm seeing [him] every day but he does not say a word to me."
This isn't the first time since the benching that Kanter has taken a jab at Fizdale, but the head coach made sure to mention that communication with Kanter has happened on several occasions during this tough process.
"There's been multiple conversations about that," Fizdale said about Kanter's role with the Knicks. "It just isn't easy and it's a difficult situation. It's not easy for me, it's not easy for him, it's not easy for anybody. But it is the direction we have to move to build for the future."
Whether or not the Knicks will shop Kanter by the Feb. 7 trade deadline is still up in the air. But, just in case it does come to fruition, Kanter made sure to show some love to the MSG faithful.
"It was kissing the logo -- I love this team," he said. "I was planning this for a long time. I was waiting to get back in. Who knows how much longer I will play here? I was able to show the fans some love for one last time -- I have no idea."