The Knicks are focused on player development and their draft pick.
Which leaves veteran center Enes Kanter the odd man out.
Kanter has not hidden his frustration with a plan that, at different points, has prioritized Noah Vonleh, Mitchell Robinson and Luke Kornet. The 26-year-old Kanter is on an expiring contract, probably not long for New York and good enough to interfere with tanking.
But with Kornet, who had been starting, injured, it appeared Kanter would start against the Rockets last night. Instead, the Knicks started Vonleh. That really set off Kanter.
Kanter, via Ian Begley of ESPN:
“I want to play basketball. We’re all competitors. I want to play basketball,” Kanter said. “So just if you’re going to play me here, play me. If not, then just get me out of here.”
Kanter, a seven-year veteran, said he was told Wednesday morning that he was starting against the Rockets, but Fizdale and the staff changed the lineup later in the day. Kanter called the lineup change “frustrating.”
“My job right now is just cheer for my teammates and try to be a good teammate, [but] what they’re doing to me is pretty messed up,” Kanter said. “I deserve way better.”
The Knicks are doing what’s right for them. They should maximize their first-round pick. They should give younger players experience.
But it stinks for Kanter. He shouldn’t patiently allow New York to waste a year of his prime. I don’t mind him publicly griping about it. In the course of looking out for themselves, the Knicks are mistreating him.
At minimum, the Knicks should recognize they’re putting Kanter in an awful spot. They should take more care to treat him well. Stringing him along about starting last night was needlessly cruel.
Sure, there’s plausible deniability in not starting Kanter – a woeful defender – against Houston. James Harden would feasted even more easily with Kanter at center. The Rockets’ scheme is designed to torch defensive liabilities like Kanter. But why say in the first place Kanter would start?
This situation is why some teams commit more fully to tanking. If the roster is devoid of capable veterans, they can’t complain about not playing.
But the Knicks have Kanter on the team, and this situation will likely remain tense.