Enes Kanter described his time in Utah as three and a half years of frustration and said at shootaround Saturday, “I’m definitely happy that I’m part of the Oklahoma City team like that, a winner team…. It wasn’t just basketball stuff. It was just professionalism. After I see OKC, then I was like, this is how NBA teams are.”
You knew that was not going to sit well with the loyal fans in Utah. They let Kanter hear it with a rain of boos — and he soaked it up WWE style.
The Jazz are 13-7 since they traded Kanter and are playing the best defense in the NBA in that stretch. Kanter and the Thunder are still fighting to make the playoffs out West. The mature move would have been to not motivate a team you need to beat in the dog days of the season. But Kanter wasn’t mature, he made this about himself and him getting to vent.
Gordon Hayward said after the game the comments did motivate the Jazz, who won 94-89.
Kanter could be frustrated with the previous coaching staff in Utah, but he had a chance at a fresh start under Quin Snyder this season. Yet, because he is a weak defender Kanter became the third wheel of the big man rotation (behind Derrick Favors and the emerging Rudy Gobert). His issues should not be with anybody but himself. He’s always been able to score, and because the Thunder need post scoring he’s putting up career-best numbers with them, but his defense remains a serious issue for OKC. There was a reason Scott Brooks tried to pair him constantly with Serge Ibaka, but that’s not an option anymore (Ibaka is out following knee surgery). I’m happy for Kanter that he feels he’s in a better place now, but he did not handle his return to Utah well at all.