2018 Free Agency

Enes Kanter still weighing 2018-19 option, is excited about new coach David Fizdale

One of the few bright spots for the New York Knicks last season was the play of center Enes Kanter. Not only did he have a solid overall season (14.1 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, 59.2 percent shooting), he served as a vocal leader at times for the Knicks and someone who had his teammates’ backs throughout 2017-18.

Kanter has until Friday to decide whether or not to opt out of his contract and enter unrestricted free agency. As he mulls that decision, he told the New York Post‘s Marc Berman last night he is excited about the Knicks’ new direction. In particular, Kanter cited new coach David Fizdale and a conversation he had with him at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May.

Here’s more from Berman on Kanter, who says he still is unsure about opting in or not with the Knicks:

As much as Kanter said he wants to remain a Knick, he revealed his new power agent, Mark Bartelstein, has done his due diligence, and about five teams have emerged with interest in Kanter if he becomes a free agent beginning Sunday.

“With Coach Fizdale, I want to stay more,’’ Kanter told The Post in a phone interview Monday night. “I know his mentality, I know how much freedom he gives to his players. It’s going to help my decision for sure. I think he’s going to change a lot of things. He seems like a relationship with him is like a friendship relationship. It’s not a player-coach relationship. I talked to him for two hours and it gives you so much confidence.’’

“I’m going to make the decision on the last day,’’ Kanter said. “I want to take time and see what everyone else is doing. I want to stay with the Knicks. They have great fans, team, organization, people. I would love to stay here.

“But my agent is telling me there could be four, five teams. My thing is, if I can, I’d just want to stay with the Knicks. I played here last year and I loved it, loved the people here. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the whole organization. But that’s the decision I’m going to make the last day.

“It’s not 100 percent. I just keeping talking to my agent. There’s a lot of teams out there if I opt out, they’re already interested in me. That’s why I’m taking my time.”

“I want to be with the Knicks, but I don’t know what’s going to happen on the last day,’’ Kanter said. “Teams are calling. I want to hear what the Knicks want to do first. If they say you’re free to walk away I may just talk to other teams. But it’s Knicks first.”

The Knicks were 29-53 last season, missing the postseason for the fifth straight season, and have posted four winning seasons since 2000.

Kanter was acquired by the Knicks with Doug McDermott in a trade last summer that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kanter has established himself as one of the better scoring big men in the league, holding career averages of 11.7 ppg and 7.3 rpg in 516 career NBA games. He was taken third overall in the 2011 draft by the Utah Jazz and then dealt to OKC in 2015 as part of a three-team deal with the Thunder and Detroit Pistons.

Fizdale had spent eight seasons before going to the Memphis Grizzlies in Miami, where the Heat reached four straight NBA Finals. He is the 11th Knicks coach since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in the 2001-02 season.

Fizdale went 50-51 with the Grizzlies, leading them to the postseason in his only full season before getting fired early last year after clashing with star Marc Gasol. He becomes the 29th coach in franchise history, hoping to lead the Knicks out of what is now a five-year postseason drought.

He replaced Jeff Hornacek, who lasted two seasons in New York before getting fired hours after the 2017-18 season finale.

Fizdale said he couldn’t pass up the chance to coach at Madison Square Garden, even though he was a candidate for jobs where there is more stability.

“The risk/reward thing was, I just said to hell with it,” Fizdale said. “It’s the Knicks, what are we talking about here?”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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