From his anti-Chinese government activism, to ridiculing NBA superstar LeBron James for his public handling of the COVID-19 vaccine, to advocating Tibetan independence, Enes Kanter has been very frank since his return to Boston this off-season .
While the Turkish center continues to use its platform to promote social change, Kanter has taken far less stance on the basketball court. After a total of 1,758 minutes at the Portland Trail Blazers a season ago – his most since 2017-18 – Kanter has only logged 10 minutes this season. On Nov. 14, the former No. 3 overall picks went on Twitter to address its limited usage with the Celtics and shared a video titled “Restrict me in the square, I’ll expose you out of the court.”
Kanter was brought back to Boston on a veterans minimum deal that off-season and was an afterthought in the run-up to the C, where veteran Al Horford and aspiring great man Robert Williams eat up the majority of the minutes. Overall, Kanter has only appeared in two games for the Celtics this season, with an average of 5.0 minutes, 2.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.
When asked about Kanter’s tweet and whether his policies contributed to his lack of ground time, head coach Ime Udoka insisted that the 29-year-old’s lack of play time was “strictly based on basketball” and that there were no other factors involved in the game.
“I spoke to him and saw (his posts),” Udoka told Mass Live at the Celtics shoot on November 16. “I tell the players that we have a lot of people who don’t play, who could play and want to play.”
“I talked to these guys about staying prepared, being professional and ready to play. I went through the same situation as a player, ”added Udoka. “And I spoke to Enes about the reasons why he doesn’t play that much in some of the things we do defensively, areas where he can improve.”
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Udoka’s comments shouldn’t be that surprising, the Celtics and their teammates have expressed their support for Kanter, which dates back to his signing last off-season. Back in October, Brad Stevens, president of the basketball division, told Toucher and Rich of 98.5 The Sports Hub: “We will always support each of our players and their right to freedom of speech and expression.”
Udoka doubled Stevens’ attitude on the shootaround, reiterating that Kanter wasn’t a distraction. “I don’t have any social media. I’ve heard of some things, but the guys have the right to have their views and that’s what I said from day one, ”he announced. “Nothing that has to do with basketball will be based on it.”
As Udoka pointed out, Kanter is not the only player in the Celtics roster who would easily justify rotation minutes elsewhere. Payton Pritchard and Jabari Parker have each seen sporadic usage and dips within minutes under the first year head coach. Juancho Hernangomez, a player acquired in a deal that sold both Kris Dunn and Carsen Edwards, who at his peak averaged nearly 30 minutes per game with the Timberwolves for a shortened time in 2019, became almost like that Used sparingly like Kanter. With a total of 19 minutes in the first 13 games of the Celtics, the 26-year-old is already the subject of trade speculation.