Celtics

Enes Kanter a wild card for the Celtics, both on and off the court

Enes Kanter a wild card for the Celtics, both on and off the court

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker was nearing the end of his media scrum on Wednesday when Enes Kanter, trying to fit in with the group as best a 6-foot-10-inch NBA player who just signed an eight-figure contract could fit in, chimed in with a question

“How much are you going to pass the ball?” Kanter asked. 

“Zero,” quipped Walker who later added, “I got you.”

One moment Kanter is asking questions to fellow athletes, the next he’s showing off some moves for his post-basketball career as a WWE wrestler, or trolling All-Star Kyrie Irving by wearing jersey No. 11 (same number worn by Irving when he was a Celtic) followed up by an explanation for the jersey number selection that’s straight out of the How-to-be-a-great-troller playbook. 

But there’s a more serious side to Kanter as well. 

The Turkish big man has been an outspoken critic of his homeland’s government shifting more towards an authoritarian state, which has led to Turkish officials suspending his passport in addition to issuing a red notice (arrest warrant).  Because of that, Kanter has not traveled to Canada to play against the Toronto Raptors since the suspension (He’s hoping a meeting with Sen. Ed Markey will allow him to play at Toronto this season) for fear of being arrested.

Indeed, the 27-year-old is a complicated man, zig-zagging back and forth between being silly one minute, and serious the next. 

And that unpredictability is just as pronounced when you talk about his game, making for some wild and crazy times from a player who — on paper at least — may be one of the biggest wild cards for the Celtics this season. 

Selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, two spots after ex-Celtic Kyrie Irving and six spots ahead of new teammate Kemba Walker, Kanter has shown himself to be a productive player in the NBA while sporting career averages of 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the field. 

And while he has shown signs of improvement on defense, it has been without question his biggest weakness as a player. 

That does not bode well for a Celtics team that was gutted in the frontcourt via trade (Aron Baynes) and free agency (Al Horford), moves that have left Boston significantly weaker defensively. 

Despite Kanter’s shortcomings defensively, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens still sees Kanter as a great fit for what the team hopes to accomplish this season. 

“Enes has always given us fits, first with his energy and effort to run the floor,” Stevens said. “Second, on the block with his variety of moves. And then the other thing is, he destroys us on the glass.”

A career 29.4 percent shooter from 3-point range, there are some questions as to whether Boston can get a similar bump from the perimeter from Kanter that they received from big men Al Horford and to a lesser extent, Aron Baynes.

“He hasn’t hurt us quite as much behind the (three-point) line,” Stevens admitted. “But then I saw him shooting in here a couple weeks ago and it looked pretty good, too.”

Stevens added, “He brings a lot of different ways he can take advantage of hs skillset. There’s not a lot of guys in the NBA right now who can take advantage of post-mismatches or even post in their position. He’s one of the guys that you can throw it to; he demands attention with his ability to score and rebound.”

Indeed, there’s clear value in what Kanter brings to the table as a basketball player. But if that were all he was about, the Celtics would know exactly what they’re getting into. 

But he is an active voice on social media platforms. He is outspoken on global events that have nothing to do with basketball. And he’s always up for a good laugh at the expense of himself or someone else. 

And when bringing him aboard, the Celtics knew they were getting all of that along with the talent. 

So when you add all that up, it only reinforces the notion that Kanter will go into this season as one of the wildest of wild cards for the Boston Celtics. 

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Jaylen Brown (thumb) out again for Celtics Saturday vs. Suns, Kemba Walker (knee) questionable

Jaylen Brown (thumb) out again for Celtics Saturday vs. Suns, Kemba Walker (knee) questionable

The Celtics will again be without Jaylen Brown on Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden as he recovers from a right thumb sprain and Kemba Walker is questionable with a sore left knee.

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The C's were without Brown in their 128-123 loss in Milwaukee on Thursday night. The swingman was injured in a home loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Walker picked up the scoring slack against the Bucks with a 40-point performance. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters at the team's shootaround Saturday morning that a scan of Brown's thumb showed no tear but he'll be out again as Boston tries to turnaround a recent slide that has seen them lose two in a row and five of their past seven.

Brown (20.0) is one of three Celtics averaging 20 points or more per game along with Walker (22.1) and Jayson Tatum (21.2). Marcus Smart moved into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of Brown so look for that to happen again Saturday. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

The 2019 NBA offseason has ensured that Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker will always be connected. When Irving spurned the Celtics after two seasons with the team to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Walker joined the C's and took over as their starting point guard.

The two players are similarly great scorers. They can pass the ball well and set up teammates, too. And while Irving is regarded by many as the better player in terms of skill set, there are some intangible things that Walker brings to the floor and Irving doesn't: leadership and chemistry.

And Irving and Walker's recent postgame comments after losses demonstrate that.

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On the latest episode of The Celtics Talk Podcast, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely were discussing the recent postgame interviews that the two did after rough outings and bad losses for their respective squads.

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Irving was far more focused on improving the team around him as opposed to his own poor performance. And as Blakely pointed out, it speaks to one of Irving's weaknesses as a leader.

Kyrie has yet to figure out how to make those around him better so that he can be a better winner. He is a great player. He's one of the best players in the NBA. There's absolutely no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But he has yet to figure out how to elevate the players around him or carry himself with a level of humility that will ingratiate himself to his teammates who may not be as good as he is, but want to be great players nonetheless.

And Blakely also had one epic mic-drop moment about the former Celtic on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight."

This completely juxtaposes Blakely's thoughts on Walker, who focused more on his poor performance and how he needs to play better for the sake of the team.

Kemba, flip-side of that, he didn't play great against Detroit. Was he the worst player? In the conversation, but he didn't play bad enough to where he was clear and undeniably the worst player on the floor.

And yet all he talked about in postgame was how he's got to be better. He's got to do a better job leading. It was me, me, me for the team, team, team. And that's something that you never hear from Kyrie.

Both Blakely and Draper acknowledged that they don't always like comparing the two to each other. But in this circumstance where their postgame pressers from similar games were polar opposites, they thought it had to be done.

It just about sums up why many Boston fans were happy to see Irving walk in the offseason. And Walker's positive attitude and ability to generate team chemistry has certainly been a breath of fresh air for the Celtics faithful.

For more on the Celtics game against the Bucks, their recent skid, expectations moving forward, and potential All-Stars from the team, check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, which drops weekly as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.