Enes Kanter had a decision to make in February.
Cut loose by the lowly New York Knicks (“They thought I was too old,” he said), Kanter was being pursued by several teams, including the Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
And while a good many players might have chosen Hollywood, sunshine and LeBron James, Kanter picked Portlandia, rainy days and Damian Lillard.
And with the way things have turned out with the two teams this season, he’s one very happy man about that choice.
“Now is the fun time,” he said. “The playoffs. Win or go home. It’s amazing. I’m super blessed. I could have been going on vacation yesterday.
“I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday and said, ‘I should feel very blessed to be with this team and this organization.’ It means a lot because this one of the classiest and one of the best organizations I’ve ever been a part of.
“If I went to LA, I probably would have gone nuts.”
It was a very close call, he said. A difficult decision.
“It was between Portland and LA,” Kanter said. “I didn’t know. It was 50-50. But then Dame texted me. And Neil (Olshey) texted me. This team wanted me.”
And it was a very fortuitous move by the Trail Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg March 25 and Portland had a seasoned, experienced (583 regular-season NBA games and 27 playoff games) pro to start at center.
And it’s not as if Kanter hasn’t had some huge games at Moda Center in his life.
His NBA high game was the 33-pointer he had for the Thunder on April 6, 2016 in Portland. And he broke Dirk Nowitzki’s one-game scoring record with a 34-point, 13-rebound game while playing for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit at Moda in 2010.
But now he’s in a Portland uniform matched up against his former Thunder teammates.
It’s safe to say that nobody in a Blazer uniform knows more about the team’s first-round playoff opponent than Kanter.
Kanter played 180 games for the Thunder through two and a half seasons with them, ending with the 2016-17 season.
During that time there were countless practice matchups with the OKC center, Steven Adams, whom he backed up.
Still friends to this day, Kanter fondly remembers those days going against Adams.
“He’s definitely one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Kanter said. “Obviously me and him were going against each other for two and a half years. He is very athletic. He has a very high basketball IQ. He reads the game very well.
“He is very important to them on defense. I think he’s their backbone.
“We know each other’s game. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do. But I think the next step is who is going to be more focused and who is going to bring the most effort.”
As a former member of the enemy team, Kanter said he might have some inside information about the Thunder.
“It’s my ex-team and I know a lot of the guys and know their games. I said a couple of things to the assistant coaches,” he said. “But I think they already know those things. Everybody’s doing a really good job of scouting the other teams.”
Sunday afternoon, in Game 1 of the series, we will find out.