Celtics

Celtics

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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