Playoffs 2019 West Semifinals: Nuggets (2) vs. Trail Blazers (3)
Blazers' Kanter (shoulder) available for Game 1
From NBA Twitter and media reports
* Tonight on TNT: Game 2, Nuggets vs. Blazers (10:30 ET)
UPDATE (9:45 ET)
Per reports out of Portland, center Enes Kanter is available to play in Game 1, despite separating his shoulder in the first-round clincher.
Enes Kanter (left shoulder) is available to Game 1.
— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) April 30, 2019
* * *
Portland Trail Blazers center is grateful for his part in the team’s playoff run and wants to keep being a part of it.
Kanter, who suffered a separated left shoulder in Game 5 of the first round vs. Oklahoma City, is listed as questionable tonight for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets.
“Some players stay in the league for 14, 15 years and don’t even make the playoffs, so it’s a huge blessing to be here in this position,” Kanter told reporters Monday. “Just to be here is a blessing for me. I would love to play, but it’s the trainer’s decision.”
Teammate CJ McCollum said he fully expects Kanter to suit up tonight.
“He’ll be alright,” McCollum said. “We’re not worried about him. He’s a tough guy. He’ll do what it takes to get out there.”
He says he wants to be out there and Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum are convinced he'll do what's necessary to be on the floor tonight pic.twitter.com/JScUiaVnSm
— AJ McCord (@AJ_McCord) April 29, 2019
Despite the injury, Kanter had 13 points and 13 rebounds in Portland’s 118-115 victory over the Thunder, which sent the Blazers through to the Western Conference semifinals.
He told reporters on Friday he was on the mend, but recovering from the injury was taking time.
“It’s getting there, it’s a process,” Kanter said before practice on Friday. “I think the Blazers doing a very good job taking care of it. Obviously I’m not going to lie, it hurts pretty bad. I’m having a hard time changing my shirt or even eating food. It’s a process, just taking it day-by-day, seeing how it feels.”
Even if Kanter does suit up, a considerable amount of the front court minutes will also go to youngsters Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins.
Kanter, 26, has had a somewhat turbulent season already. He was waived by the New York Knicks following the trade deadline. Once a starter, he fell out of the rotation altogether when New York – which finished with the worst record in the league — turned its focus to younger players.
He was signed by the Blazers just before the All-Star break as a backup to starter Jusuf Nurkic.
But Kanter became vitally important for Portland when Nurkic broke his leg in an overtime victory at home over the Brooklyn Nets on March 25. Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game this season.
Kanter averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 games down the stretch with the Blazers, including eight starts.
In the playoffs, he is averaging 13.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. In Game 1 against the Thunder, he had 20 points and 18 rebounds and was dubbed the game’s MVP by teammate Damian Lillard.
He has faced challenges beyond the court as well. A native of Turkey, Kanter missed a game in Toronto shortly after joining the Blazers because he thought his life might be in danger if he left the United States. As a result of his criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter had been labeled a terrorist by his native country. His passport was revoked and Turkey has reportedly issued a warrant for his arrest with Interpol.
Kanter has been working out lightly and doing some lifting. The concern isn’t just whether he can play through the pain, but whether there’s a chance for further damage, he said.
He said he will work with the team’s trainers and see how the shoulder feels.
“They just said it’s a separation, it’s normally around a month to just heal it,” he said last week. “But I mean, you don’t have a month to take off, so I’m just going to push through it.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.