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NBA PM: Will Kanter Get Lucrative Deal?

Will Enes Kanter get the lucrative deal he’s seeking? He’s playing well, but there are red flags surrounding him.

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Will Enes Kanter Get Lucrative Deal?

Enes Kanter is a 6’11 center who, at 22 years old, is approaching restricted free agency this summer. Since joining the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline, Kanter is averaging 17.8 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 56.3 percent from the field. Over the last 10 games, his numbers are even better: 19.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 56.8 percent from the field.

Judging by this information alone, it seems that Kanter is poised for a huge payday this summer. Big men who easily average a double-double and are barely over the legal drinking age get paid big bucks in the NBA. The Thunder will be able to match any offer sheet the center receives once they restrict him with a qualifying offer, but it would seem Kanter is due for a significant raise from someone.

However, there’s more to this story. There’s a reason why the Utah Jazz were willing to move Kanter at the trade deadline. Sure, the emergence of Rudy Gobert contributed to the decision, but there was more to it.

At times, Kanter rubbed people the wrong way with his poor attitude, awful defense and limited effort. These red flags have some league sources wondering just how much Kanter will be offered when he hits free agency on July 1, and if he’ll be able to get the lucrative, long-term deal he’s seeking.

Kanter’s recent comments about the Jazz certainly won’t help the way he’s perceived. Rather than biting his tongue as he said he would, he decided to go off on the Jazz while addressing reporters in Utah. He complained about his time with the Jazz, criticized every part of the organization and even admitted that he “didn’t bring it every night” in Utah. He didn’t just burn this bridge, he nuked it.

“Almost everything was a frustration,” Kanter said, according to the Deseret News. “It wasn’t just a one or two-game frustration; it was a three-and-a-half-year frustration.

“It wasn’t just basketball stuff. It was professionalism. After seeing OKC, I was like ‘This is how NBA teams are.’ It was like you’re in a dream and you don’t want to open your eyes you don’t want to end that dream. Oklahoma City has been like that for me.”

Kanter essentially described Utah as a hell hole where he was constantly unhappy.

“The difference is I like playing basketball [in Oklahoma City], that’s the most important thing,” Kanter said. “I never liked playing basketball before in my NBA career. That’s the first time I felt like playing basketball for my team, for the fans, for my teammates, for coaches — everybody. That’s the first time.”

Bringing up one or two frustrations is one thing. It’s understandable if he butted heads with a specific person or was frustrated having to play limited minutes early in his career (due to the presence of veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap). But saying that he never liked basketball while in Utah and didn’t feel like playing for his teammates, coaches and fans? That is certainly alarming.

Toward the end of Kanter’s stint in Utah, things got ugly. Not only was he clearly disgruntled with his diminished role due to the emergence of Gobert, he was acting out after demanding a trade. This included voicing his displeasure publicly and reportedly refusing to fly on the Jazz’s plane after the All-Star break in order to party with friends instead.

As if Kanter’s comments and antics weren’t big enough red flags, consider what his teammates had to say about him after the Jazz defeated the Thunder on Saturday.

“He did what he always does: he got his stats, he didn’t defend, he took an L,” Utah’s Trevor Booker said of Kanter, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Rarely are NBA players that candid when discussing a former teammate, especially since they may one day end up on the same team again. But Booker didn’t hold back at all.

In addition, Gordon Hayward refused to call Kanter by his name, instead referring to him as “a former player.”

“I think it definitely was a little personal for all of us,” Hayward said after Utah’s win, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “It is what it is. If he feels one way, that’s fine. I think it kind of hyped us up a little bit, gave us a little extra incentive. I think it pissed us off a little bit. I think it pissed the fans off, obviously, with the booing. They were tremendous tonight.”

As Hayward mentioned, the Utah fans let Kanter hear it, booing him every time he touched the ball. During introductions, Kanter put his hands to his ears and embraced the villain role, which upset Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.

“I didn’t like the way he handled it early on when they introduced him,” Coach Brooks said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s something that will be addressed. We’re better than that.”

Throw all of this together and it becomes very difficult to predict what will happen when Kanter hits free agency.

On one hand, you have a skilled center who is averaging a double-double and seemingly still has room to grow since he’s only 22 years old. Perhaps he learned from his experiences and can have a long, successful career going forward. He has looked good in Oklahoma City, which suggests he can play well when put in the right situation.

On the other hand, you have a player who has admitted to not trying his hardest when frustrated, who says he didn’t like basketball until the last few months, who gets upset when his role is diminished, who alienated his teammates so much that they blasted him publicly and who clearly was hurting Utah’s defense when he was on the court. Not to mention, restricted free agency can be a difficult process for any player (just as Greg Monroe).

Kanter’s contract negotiations will surely be interesting this July.

Kevin Durant Undergoes Successful Surgery

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant underwent successful bone graft surgery today for the fifth metatarsal of his right foot, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Martin O’Malley with Thunder medical personnel present at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Durant will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season and is expected to return to full basketball activities in the next four to six months.

The reigning NBA Most Valuable Player appeared in 27 games during the 2014-15 campaign, averaging 25.4 points on 51 percent shooting from the floor (238-of-467), 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 33.8 minutes per game.

Glen Davis Fined $15,000

Los Angeles Clippers forward Glen Davis has been fined $15,000 for kicking a seat cushion into the spectator stands, it was announced today by Rod Thorn, President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 4:16 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 119-106 win over the Boston Celtics on March 29 at TD Garden.

To view the play that resulted in the fine, click here.

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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