Celtics Spotlight: There's more to Kanter than off-court persona

Celtics Spotlight: There's more to Kanter than off-court persona

BOSTON -- There is no mistaking the light-hearted, easy-breezy demeanor of Enes Kanter and how at this point in the Celtics’ franchise, it is an ideal fit.

From his opening press conference in Boston, picking jersey No. 11 and doing a little bit of trolling in the process (No. 11 was Kyrie Irving’s old number), he has quickly endeared himself to Celtics fans.  But as we’re coming to find, there’s so much more to who Kanter really is. 

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He is not one afraid to speak his mind, evident by him consistently being outspoken against the government of his native Turkey. Despite the laughs and positions he takes politically, lost at times is the fact that he’s a pretty damn good basketball player particularly when it comes to scoring and rebounding, which, at the end of the day, is why he’s a Boston Celtic.

It’s a successful season for Kanter if… 

...he consistently delivers in Boston the way he has with his previous teams. Kanter, selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft - two spots behind Irving, six spots ahead of Irving’s replacement, Kemba Walker - is one of the best when it comes to double-doubles. And considering the holes left in the frontcourt with Al Horford (Philadelphia) and Aron Baynes (traded to Phoenix) gone, the Celtics will need double-double Kanter more nights than not. Last season, he had 32 double-doubles. To put that in perspective, Kanter’s total was more than Boston’s top-2 double-double leaders last season, Kyrie Irving (21) and Al Horford (10). 

It’s a disappointing season for Kanter if… 

...Kanter’s biggest shortcoming as a player - his defense - becomes such an issue that not even the best efforts on head coach Brad Stevens’ part, can cover it up. He is one of the few players on this Celtics roster who can dominate one end of the floor, and disappear for long stretches at the other. 

So far in camp, it appears to not be a huge issue. But there's no denying that defensively, Robert Williams III and Daniel Theis are ahead of him - and it's not just because they played for Boston last season, either. But this is the preseason and while it has value, it by no means serves as a true indicator of how things will be when the games truly count. 

For example, Nikola Vucevic did not play in Boston's 100-75 preseason win over the Magic. Vucevic is a player who would challenge Boston and, just as significant, result in Kanter having to guard him. Kanter must also play well enough to stay in a rotation that is going to be crowded for the team’s bigs, with chief challengers Williams and Theis.

2019-2020 Outlook

Kanter comes in the season motivated to not just play, but be a major cog in the team’s success. Last season’s run with Portland gave him a feel for what it takes to make a deep playoff run. It's something he’s hoping to replicate with the Celtics. His ability to provide inside scoring, rebounding, solid defense and leadership, will go far in determining both the success of the Celtics and his future in Boston or elsewhere. Signed to a two-year, $9.77 million deal, Boston - on paper at least - is getting a tremendous bang for its buck. And Kanter, like most free agents who sign a short-term deal with the C's, is hoping a strong showing will allow him to cash in on a bigger payday when he hits free agency whether it means returning to Boston or signing elsewhere. 

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Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker had every reason to think that his night was over going into the fourth quarter. 

Boston had a commanding lead against a Cleveland Cavaliers squad that’s considered one of the worst teams in the NBA. 

But as the game got a little too close for head coach Brad Stevens’ comfort, he turned to Walker.

And Walker responded with a barrage of 3-pointers that left the Cavs as nothing more than collateral damage in the wake of Boston’s 110-88 win. 

Walker finished with a game-high 22 points which included a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that put the Cavs (5-18) away for good. 

Boston led by as many as 29 points in the second half, only to see that lead down to as little as 14 points in the fourth with seven minutes to play. 

That’s when he called on Walker who came up with one big shot after another. 

And the way Walker responded in the fourth quarter when called upon by Stevens was a reminder of just how important it has become for the best players to be locked in from the opening tip-off to the final horn - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Said Stevens: “I just told the team afterwards, ‘If you want to be special then model after Kemba because Kemba sits over there thinks his night’s done, gets put back into the game, drills three 3’s and ends it.

Stevens added, “Special is not for everybody.”

Having spent his first eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker knows exactly what the Cavs were thinking as they steadily chipped away at Boston’s lead.

Understanding the mindset of a team and players on the comeback trail has helped Walker appreciate and embrace the need to always stay on top of his game and ready to go - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Walker understands how a player can lose focus on the game and become relaxed down the stretch in what appears to be a blowout in the making. 

“It’s possible,” Walker says before adding, “But at the end of the day you have to stay engaged through the whole game. You just never know. In this league, 20-point leads go so fast. Teams can score in bunches really fast. You have to stay engaged.”

Which is exactly what he did. 

That not only helped Boston get the victory on Monday, but also served as a great example for the team’s younger players on how to handle themselves when things get sidetracked after going just the way they want them to for most of the game. 

“He set a great example, what he’s done in this league for a very long time,” Tatum said. “That’s why he’s one of the best players in the league.”

And a leader on this team. 

“As one of the leaders I feel I have to stay engaged,” Walker said. “Just like … you never know what to expect.  This league, guys can score so fast and easy. You just never know when teams will come back. It can get a little nerve-racking and Brad felt he had to put me back in. I knew once I got in there, I had to be more aggressive, look for my shot a little more and that’s what I did.”

Blakely's Takeaways: C's home dominance keying hot start>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jaylen Brown on Grant Williams' 3-point woes: 'We were calling him Ben Simmons'

Jaylen Brown on Grant Williams' 3-point woes: 'We were calling him Ben Simmons'

After an 0-for-25 streak to begin his NBA career, Grant Williams finally hit his first 3-pointer on Monday night.

The Boston Celtics rookie has taken his struggles in stride and laughed off nicknames given to him by his teammates throughout the cold spell. The funniest nickname of all, though, was revealed by Jaylen Brown after Monday's win over the Cavaliers.

Blakely's Takeaways: C's home dominance keying hot start

"Yeah, we were calling him Ben Simmons," Brown said.


Simmons' 3-point shooting woes are well-documented. The Philadelphia 76ers star has only attempted 21 3s in his three-year career and made two of them (2-for-4 this season). So comparing Williams to him definitely was a low blow, but maybe that's the motivation the 21-year-old needed to drain the first of his career and get on a hot streak.

The C's will take on the 76ers at TD Garden on Thursday, so all eyes are sure to be on both Williams and Simmons whenever the young guns are open behind the 3-point line.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.