Kanter Talks Why He Picked Portland, Getting Up To Speed And Playing 'With A Smile On Your Face'

by Casey Holdahl
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Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter participated in his first practice Wednesday afternoon in Brooklyn since signing as a free agent last week. The 6-11 veteran out of Turkey discussed why he decided to sign with the Trail Blazers, what he thinks he can add on the court and in the locker room, signing a restricted free agent contract with Portland four years ago, learning new plays and his time with the Knicks...

Why did you decide to sign with the Trail Blazers?

Enes Kanter: "I think it's just the culture. After I got released from the Knicks I got a lot of offers but I just wanted to wait. After Neil (Olshey) talked to me, I was like 'You know what, I think Portland is the team that I want to go to because I already know their good culture from four years ago when they offered be the contract.' I think it's the best decision for me. Then Dame (Lillard) texted me and I was like 'You know what, this is the best place that I can (be).' Be with the team and go far."

What did Damian say to you in text?

Enes Kanter: "We just talked. I already knew how good of a player he is but I saw how good of a teammate he is. He was just texting me and stuff. It's between me and him."

How has your time been so far with the team?

Enes Kanter: "It's amazing, like a first year of school. I was actually nervous but I think they help me a lot. Amazing locker (room). From the first moment that I stepped in everybody was trying to help, talking to me about lots of stuff. It's become very easy, I feel like I've been a part of this team for a long time from the first day."

Is it a little weird to be thrown into a playoff chase with a bunch of new teammates? Trying to learn new plays?

Enes Kanter: "I was just trying to get the sets, it was like smoke coming out of my head. A lot of plays, a lot of actions but it's good. I was part of a good team before in Oklahoma City, now I'm a part of a playoff culture so I'm definitely very excited about it."

What do you think you can add to this team?

Enes Kanter: "It's not like they're missing anything. Obviously I watched their last game against Golden State. Everything is there: intensity, basketball, good teammates. All I want to bring is more energy and try to be a good teammate. I think it's my eighth year in the league now so try to help the young guys and try to be a good teammate. The best question for me is: How can I make others better. That's what I'm looking for because we're trying to get to the playoffs and go far, so that's definitely very important."

Who were some of the other teams that expressed interest in signing you?

Enes Kanter: "I was deciding between the Lakers and Portland. It came down to two and I wanted to pick Portland."

How many of the players did you already know?

Enes Kanter: "I actually didn't really know anybody, just Rodney Hood. I knew Rodney Hood because I played on the same team. I knew CJ, who I played with in summer time pick up games, but other than that, I really didn't know anybody."

When you signed the offer sheet four years ago did you come out to Portland and check out the facilities?

Enes Kanter: "Actually, no. I just came, took my physical, I remember me and Neil went to hotel room to sign the deal. I was like "That's it, I'll go to Portland' and then (Oklahoma City) matched it. It's like when Neil texted me I was so emotional because I was like 'Man, after four years, I want to go back to play.' They give me a lot, they believed in me four years ago and I was like 'I want to go back and play with them.'"

What are your expectations for the rest of the season?

Enes Kanter: "Just go out there, try to finish the season healthy, get better every day."

How did you feel like Knicks head coach David Fizdale handled you this season?

Enes Kanter: "One thing about it, you've got to understand... they are going in a different direction. They want their young guys to get better, of course, I understand it. My thing is I'm closing that chapter. I even texted Coach Fizdale and everybody, wished them well. It was fun to see that they won their last game against Atlanta. It was cool."

So no hard feelings?

Enes Kanter: "Of course not. They gave me so much. From Day One, not just the organization and the players, but the whole state just opened their arms, gave me a warm welcome. I'm thankful for everything, the whole organization, GM, president. I know in the future they're going to do very well in the East."

How many of Portland's plays and sets do you actually know?

Enes Kanter: "I think when you have guys like Dame and CJ on your team, things become so easy. I just tried to get all the sets in like 30 minutes, I probably don't remember any of them right now. But I think when you have those guys, Dame and CJ on your team, the game becomes so easy because those two are the type of guys that make themselves better and makes everybody else better around them. So that's what makes them really special, so I'm just going to go out there, have fun and play with them."

What do you feel like you bring to a locker room?

Enes Kanter: "Just energy. I think that's the most important, energy, fun, smiles. In this job I think the most important thing (is) how can we have fun? That's the most important thing, do your job with a smile on your face. That's very important. I already know the culture. All the guys -- I didn't know any of them -- very cool guys. Definitely excited to play with those guys."

Any parting words for Knicks fans?

Enes Kanter: "I would just say thank you for just being patient with the team, with me. I wish them well, I know in the future they're going to do very well. That's all I can say, wish them good luck."

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