SALT LAKE CITY — Enes Kanter was back in Utah on Saturday.
It almost sounded like he never left.
In February of 2015, the former Jazz center demanded a trade from Utah. He was confused about why he was losing playing time, (a certain Rudy Gobert was a pretty easy answer,) and was wondering why he wasn’t finishing games. After a contest in Dallas, Kanter had enough and told the media he wanted a new home.
Nearly fours years later, back in the place where he began his NBA career, Kanter echoed some of those thoughts. He didn't go as far as saying he wanted to leave New York, but it sure doesn't sound like he'd mind if that happened.
“I just want to go out there and play basketball,” Kanter told reporters after New York’s 129-97 loss to Utah. “I want to win. I don’t know why they’re shutting me down. I just want to go out there and win. It doesn’t matter (if that is a) starter or (coming) off the bench. I think every player's job is to just go out there and fight every minute on the court. That’s what I want to do. Just want to go out there and just play basketball. So I don’t understand why they’re shutting me down.”
Kanter didn’t leave Utah on good terms, and he only made things worse after he left. On his first return trip to Salt Lake, he said the only thing he missed about Utah was the mountains. That, obviously, didn’t sit well with the Jazz fans. And while he’s backed off those comments since then, those fans haven’t forgotten.
He was booed mercilessly when he checked into the game Saturday and then every time he touched the ball after that. Some of the loudest cheers of the night were reserved for his missed shots — and there were more than a few. Kanter finished with zero points on 0-for-6 shooting to the joy of the crowd.
It now looks like another ugly ending could be on the horizon for Kanter. New York is at 9-28 and has lost seven in a row. The Knicks are in a tailspin and Kanter has seen his playing time start to drop.
He’s once again losing minutes to younger players, and he doesn’t appear to be in his current team’s long-term plans.
“I don’t understand,” Kanter said. “This is too early in the season to shut me down. My goal is to go out there and try to be an All-Star this year. That was my goal. But, now, look at the situation. You can’t do anything about it. You’ve got to stay positive.”
Saturday’s game was the second-straight contest where Kanter played under 20 minutes.
“I just want to go out there and play basketball and help my team win,” Kanter continued. “That’s what all this is about. Just go out there and win. On the bench. Not on the bench, I’m trying to cheer for my teammates and trying to do the best I can to stay positive. But like I said I don’t know what the situation is. I don’t know why they’re shutting me down this early.”