The Kanter4Congress campaign is officially on.
Trail Blazers newly re-acquired big man Enes Kanter feels right at home after making his return to Rip City in a three-team trade bringing the Turkish center from Boston in the deal.
“This does feel like home,” Kanter said with a beaming smile on his face in his first availability since returning to the Trail Blazers. “I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Kanter, who stepped into the starting role after Jusuf Nurkic’s season-ending ankle injury, played 39 games for Portland, 16 of which were in the playoffs where he averaged 11.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Despite only a partial season in Portland, the love is real between Kanter and Rip City.
“I think the moment that I landed in the airport, everybody was just so happy, everybody was telling me, ‘How you doing, good to have you here,’” Kanter said. “It’s just amazing. Because you don’t have this same kind of energy with every team. But you have this here. You have this family vibe, good vibe, always positive vibes here.”
Kanter’s ability to fold back into the Blazers lineup as an offensive rebounding specialist and bruising big man will be extremely valuable for the Blazers this upcoming season.
As many will recall, Kanter has been and remains outspoken against Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, calling him a ‘dictator’ and ‘authoritarian’ over human and civil rights issues. The Turkish government, in response, revoked Kanter’s passport, arrested members of his family and has accused him and his family of terrorism. Kanter even claims there is an Interpol Red Notice placed against him.
Quickly, Kanter found an ally in Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden while in Portland, even leading Senator Wyden to write an open letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to support Kanter’s free speech.
“President Erdogan has responded like many thin-skinned autocrats before him, by going after Mr. Kanter and his family,” Wyden wrote. “America cannot and must not stay silent in the face of such a blatant assault on free thought and expression. This is even truer when the perpetrators of such odious behavior are supposed friends and allies.”
Senator Wyden stayed connected with Kanter after joining the Celtics, even inviting him to speak on Capitol Hill.
So, of course, Wyden was one of the first people to text Kanter when the news broke that he'd be coming back to Rip City.
So, with all the support of Wyden and Trail Blazers fans, Kanter may have a little post-basketball inspiration.
“I was talking to one of my friends,” Kanter said, ‘and I was like, ‘Listen man, the love I get from this city is amazing. Maybe, after my basketball career, I might return and be a congressman here. I just can’t say enough about the people here.”
If he’s looking for an endorsement, Wyden will likely be in his corner once more.
That is, unless Kanter is running against him.
Senator Kanter has a nice ring to it, no?