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Enes Kanter says Kevin Durant should come to Knicks “to build a brand all over again”

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The smart money is on Kevin Durant re-signing with the Golden State Warriors next summer, keeping together a team for the ages that is racking up rings and having fun doing it.

However, other teams sense that the first of the “big four” in Golden State to bolt will be Durant, that he will want his own team, and so they are prepping for the possibility. Teams are making sure they have the cap space next summer, and they will have their pitches ready if Durant decides to test the waters.

And players are going to recruit him. That includes his former Thunder teammate Enes Kanter, who was on SiriusXM NBA Radio with hosts Eddie Johnson and Justin Termine Wednesday and said he would recruit Durant, who should come to the Knicks for the chance “to build a brand all over again.”

“It is New York. If you are with New York, you’re king of America and king of the world,” Kanter said…

“We are New York. He’s a free agent. We need to use that. We are the best city in the world. That could draw a lot of attention for free agents. I would love for him to be my teammate again. When he was my teammate he was an amazing teammate, amazing character, scorer and basketball player on court and off the court, too. I would love to see him be my teammate again.”

Kanter trash talked Durant and his decision to leave OKC from the day it happened — at points from the bench of the opposing team — so maybe he’s not going to be the face of New York’s recruitment.

No doubt the Knicks would love to land Durant and if given the chance to make a pitch it would sound a lot like “you could be king of America and king of the world” if you play here. Paired with a (hopefully healthy by then) Kristaps Porzingis and a young core, there would be real potential there.

However, so many questions have to be answered before then. It starts with will Durant actually leave the Warriors? That’s far from a given. Then there are the Knicks finances, they should have max cap space after they waive and stretch Joakim Noah (like what the Lakers recently did with Luol Deng, although don’t expect a discount from Noah), but they also have to reach terms on a max contract extension for Porzingis. There’s some financial juggling that needs to go on in NYC.

Among those financial questions, what to do with Kanter? He is a free agent next summer, coming off a season where he will make $18.6 million. The Knicks may want to bring him back, but not at near that price and likely not until Durant or another free agent signs with the team because the Knicks will need that cap space.

Kanter told Johnson and Termine he wants to stay a Knick, that he loves the city and the team. He’s told the Knicks’ that too and made no secret of it, but whether that will be enough remains to be seen. However, if he can help recruit Durant it will help his cause.

Knicks coach David Fizdale challenges Kristaps Porzingis

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David Fizdale is a smart man. He knows that if he is going to succeed as Knicks coach, it starts with winning over Kristaps Porzingis — he has flown to Europe to meet with the man, taking steps no other Knicks coach had to this point. This is the NBA, the star player has more power than the coach, and so the coach has to win said player over.

Fizdale has done that by saying he would push Porzingis. Bruce Beck of WNBC in New York caught up with Fizdale and asked him that relationship (hat tip elitesportsny.com).

“He likes the challenge of me saying ‘I want him to be the MVP’ and ‘I want him to be the Defensive Player of the Year.’ That’s real competitors they want that and I’m going right at it with him. I want him to look at himself that way.”

Fizdale is saying all the right things so far — to Porzingis, to Knicks fans, to everyone.

That’s a good start. This is going to be a tough season for the Knicks because Fizdale brings real energy, but without Porzingis — who is expected to miss most if not all of the coming season coming off a torn ACL — the Knicks are going to lose a lot of games. I like Tim Hardaway Jr., rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson have potential, guys like Enes Kanter and Mario Hezonja are solid, but this is a franchise still building without Porzingis. Knicks fans (and ownership) are not the most patient people on the planet, but they are going to be asked to be. Again.

Fizdale is going to get through that and the Knicks will come out stronger on the other side, the new coach will lay down a good foundation this season. But it’s a process, especially until Porzingis gets all the way back and Fizdale can really push him.

Courtney Lee notices Knicks omit him from Instagram post

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Shortly after taking over the front office last year, Knicks president Steve Mills named the team’s key players without including Carmelo Anthony. Later last summer, Mills wrote about his vision for the team while again excluding Anthony.

Of course, New York traded Anthony to the Thunder just before the season.

If that set an example for how Mills’ Knicks will operate, Courtney Lee might not be long for New York. And Lee seemingly realizes it.

The Knicks touted their schedule release on Instagram:

That graphic includes seven of the eight Knicks who played most last season and remain under contract plus New York’s two draft picks:

But Lee – who led the Knicks in playing time last year by a wide margin – doesn’t appear. His response:;

Lee, 32, no longer fits on the rebuilding Knicks. He’s a Phil Jackson signing.

Though Lee is probably somewhat overpaid (guaranteed $12,253,780 this season and $12,759,670 the following year), he could still help plenty of teams. 3-and-D wings are in demand.

It always seemed likely the Knicks would would try to trade Lee.

Their Instagram post provides even more evidence he’s headed out.

Rookie Kevin Knox on Knicks: “We have a chance to make the playoffs”

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So you’re saying there’s a chance…

Not many people have the Knicks as a playoff team (I had them 12th in the East in their power rankings, but could see them as high as 10th), primarily because of the uncertainty around the return of Kristaps Porzingis from a torn ACL. The earliest he is expected back is around Christmas, and him missing the entire season out of the question. Without him, even in the East, it’s hard to see the Knicks winning a lot.

Rookie Kevin Knox, coming off a strong Summer League in Las Vegas, doesn’t see it that way. He also thinks the Las Vegas over/under on wins of 29.5 sells the team short. Here is what he told Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“People are sleeping on us with the 29 wins. I think we definitely can win at least 35 and get in that playoff talk. That’s my personal opinion. Everyone has their own opinion. But the whole team, I’m pretty confident we’re really good this year, that we have a chance to make the playoffs.”

The Knicks have some solid players — Tim Hardaway Jr., Mario Hezonja, Enes Kanter — and some guys with potential such as Frank Ntilikina (who did not sell me at Summer League this year) and Knox. They have a new coach who gets it in David Fizdale. However, without Porzingis they just don’t have the star power to really compete night in and night out in the NBA. This isn’t Las Vegas anymore, the talent level Knox has seen is about to make a massive leap.

Still, Knox is saying all the right things — he just wants to win.

“I’m pretty confident I can be one of the top rookies,” Knox said at the photo event staged at the Knicks’ Tarrytown campus. “But one of my goals this year is just to win in New York. I’m not really worried about winning the rookie award. I just want to win as a team, take road games, play some of the top teams and beat them to make the playoffs. Ultimately I want to win. That’s my main focus as my rookie year.”

Knox is a legitimate dark horse candidate for Rookie of the Year — he should get plenty of touches and showed impressive athleticism in Las Vegas. As long as his focus is not that goal and is instead of just getting better (and winning) he will be another key piece for the Knicks when they do turn the corner.

NBA players bothered by Raptors trading DeMar DeRozan

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DeMar DeRozan is clearly upset with the Raptors for trading him (for Kawhi Leonard).

Is DeRozan’s frustration justified?

To a certain extent, he’s entitled to feel however he wants. I would never tell him his reaction is “wrong.”

But that’s not the same as endorsing his outlook. Should we rally behind him and hold Toronto accountable for mistreating him? Answering that question relies on so much hearsay, I’m not sure it’s possible to answer fairly.

In what I find a telling illustration of the situation, ESPN has updated its story on the trade multiple times today. In an early version:

Sources close to DeRozan told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that DeRozan met with Toronto brass in Las Vegas during summer league and was told he would not be traded.

That got changed to:

Sources close to DeRozan told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that DeRozan met with Toronto officials in Las Vegas during summer league and believed that he would not be traded.

That’s a subtle, but meaningful, distinction.

Did the Raptors tell DeRozan he wouldn’t be traded? Different people involved in the conversation would probably give different answers.

Did DeRozan take away that Toronto wouldn’t trade him? It seems so, and maybe it’s because team officials told him that directly. But it’s also possible he misinterpreted team officials. Not that he’s willing to grant that possibility.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Without being privy to the exact wording, I don’t know where to side.

Unsurprisingly, other players are backing DeRozan – some publicly and quite strongly, others anonymously.

Lou Williams:

Isaiah Thomas:

Damian Lillard:

Anthony Morrow:

Enes Kanter:

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

DeRozan meant a lot to the Raptors, and he deserves a proper sendoff. But some of this strikes me as an overreaction.

The Spurs didn’t thank Leonard in their press release, either. Both teams posted cursory messages of gratitude on social media to their outgoing players. Gregg Popovich held a press conference today and said many kind things about Leonard, though. The main difference appears to be Masai Ujiri just hasn’t happened to hold his press conference yet. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t effusively praise DeRozan in it.

And to Kanter’s claim the Raptors gave away DeRozan for nothing? They got Kawhi freaking Leonard.

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the spotlight-seeking Kanter just saying something outlandish to draw attention.

Even if that were Kanter’s intent, that just feeds into this spiraling into a bigger deal than it probably should be.

If the Raptors told DeRozan they wouldn’t trade him, they shouldn’t have done that. If they told DeRozan they didn’t plan to trade him while they were secretly putting the final touches on this deal, they shouldn’t have done that.

But if they told DeRozan they didn’t plan to trade him and truly didn’t at that moment, I wouldn’t blame them. Plans can change, and it would have done them no good to warn DeRozan of that possibility. If he expected more loyalty, that’s on him.

Ujiri will get a chance to explain himself. So will DeRozan – though his narrative is already gaining significant traction, especially among his peers. Maybe we’ll actually become positioned to make an outside judgment.

Most likely, this will remain a he-said, he-said situation that wanes in significance. DeRozan will probably play hard in San Antonio and grow to enjoy it there. Players – even, I bet, including DeRozan – will forgive the Raptors in time. As much furor as these things evoke in the moment, players rarely hold a grudge to the point of avoiding franchises.

But for now, Toronto is dealing with a perception hit right as it begins its courtship of one of the NBA’s top players, Leonard.