Enes Kanter is one extraordinarily pugnacious power forward. Probably too much for a league that is more averse to fisticuffs than any of the four major American pro sports leagues.
In another era, Kanter would have been a perfect New York Knicks enforcer. Unfortunately, with the way the NBA has trended since Rudy Tomjanovich’s face was shattered by a right cross from Kermit Washington and 2004’s Malice in the Palace, his confrontational personality is out of step with the family-friendly image The Association has strived for.
However, instigating fights is a new one for Kanter, who’s adapting to a leadership role as an established vet on an up-and-coming young squad for the first time in his career. While Kanter’s sat out due to back spasms, he’s been enlisting teammates to fight for him.
In the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ 103-91 loss on Monday, Michael Beasley hit Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic with a forearm to the face and Frank Ntilikina shoved Nurkic, earning techs for both Knicks players. It’s not clear whether the incident was related to the pair doing Kanter’s bidding, but after the game, Kanter told ESPN’s Ian Bagley this.
“I’m not going to tell who, but I told somebody, ‘Hey man, go out there and fight with somebody. It will get the energy up.” No, I’m serious. If you go out there and just hit somebody or just fight with somebody, get a technical foul, I will pay for the fine, I don’t care. Just go out there and do your thing. Because we need that energy, we need that fight. It doesn’t matter if we’re down by 25, a fight, get a technical foul, the crowd is in it, and they’re gonna get nervous.”
On Tuesday, Kanter was reprimanded by the league office for essentially being a negative influence and encouraging the aforementioned unnamed teammate to get into a fight during the second quarter of their loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Kanter apologized, but attempted to hedge the truth of his intent, per the New York Daily News.
“The front office told me I cannot say stuff like that,” Kanter said Tuesday following practice.
“It’s a learning process. This is my second language. When I say fight, it means compete, play hard, compete. You get a tech; you get a tech. They told me I cannot say stuff like that. I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry, NBA, my fault.”
That sounds like an equivocation for a man who was one half of the Bruise Brothers. When he was traded to the Knicks, his combative personality was bound to combust with the rage constantly brewing in the New York City air. According to Kanter, he may also be subject to a fine.
“They said they’re probably going to call,” Kanter said, before again clarifying his comment. “Just got out there play hard, have fun, compete, fight, means do your thing, play hard, as hard as you can.”
Kanter’s playing hard on the offensive end this season. He’s averaging a double-double for the second time in his career, shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe and a career-high 63 percent from the field. Unfortunately, Kanter doesn’t exhibit the same type of fight on the defensive end where he’s been a matador instead of the bull he portrays, during his career.
When Kanter gets back on the court, he should stick to fighting his own battles and cruisin’ for his own bruisins.