And so he was waving goodbye yesterday, his megawatt smile illuminating the Zions Bank Basketball Center as he dribbled alone in a corner, away from the rest of the team. For Enes Kanter, Thurs. Feb. 19 would indeed be his final day in a Utah Jazz uniform on this, the NBA Trade Deadline. The Big Turk was being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Lo, as it was in the beginning–when Kanter couldn’t play for Kentucky in college due to an eligibility issue–it would kind of, sort of be in the pros. The man who didn’t have a home at the center position in Lexington, or could have had–had he not played in some inauspicious pro game in Europe as a teen–also did not have a place to call his own in Utah, a spot where he could ply his trade as a starter getting 25 and 10 without blinking one of his bushy eyebrows.
And lo, the Gods intervened and the heavens opened beyond the pearly gates of the EnergySolutions Arena Thursday in the city of Salt Lake, beyond the snow-capped mountains that majestically overlook the sweeping valley and dropped Kanter, his bushy eyebrows, jet black hair and his management team in flat and dusty Oklahoma.
But that was partially because Kanter could not guard the broad side of a mountain–or any opposing center. His hasty exit also occurred because his agent, Max Ergul, was asking for Gordon Hayward-type money–or 4 years at $63 million, according to Deseret News beat writer Jody Genessy–when the Turkish giant was really worth about half his asking price.
That valuation set Kanter and his bros from Istanbul into a frenzy from here to Constantinople. During the season Kanter used Twitter as a bully pulpit regarding his religion and other things, his mouth piece as a projectile hurtling into the stands at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena and his mouth to say Andrew Bogut couldn’t play and, oh yeah, that he wanted to be traded, or else.
That last piece of news hit Utah like a funnel cloud, carrying with it the last shred of credibility Kanter had in this town. Kanter had already smacked other Muslims, the Utah Utes and Utah as a whole. As this all took place, he watched his minutes dwindle as French giant Rudy Gobert, a second round pick out of nowhere, started stealing his thunder with heady defensive play and insane length in the post. Once Gobert started scoring, well, you knew Kanter’s time here was going to be limited.
And so with Gobert developing as quickly as he was, the Jazz probably felt like Kanter had betrayed them for the last time. So they had an opportunity to trade Kanter Thursday to the Thunder for a bunch of weird pieces including crazy center Kendrick Perkins who will never and would never play in Utah, anyway.
The deal also included seldom-used Jazz forward Steve Novak going bye-bye with Kanter. In return the Jazz snagged two draft picks to be used in the future, but it also includes two new projects, unless you label undrafted Arizona product Grant Jerrett and Timor Pleiss, a 7-foot-2-inch, four-point-per-game scorer, German national team member and FC Barcelona center as can’t-miss.
Obviously, you can’t. And, you won’t, not in a million, billion, bajillion years. And so the Jazz, whose general manager Dennis Lindsey opened his gloved white hand in through the clouds and plucked Kanter and Novak out of the arena before flicking them into the stratosphere, provided them both with a nice home on a contender, among the oil fields and dust of Oklahoma.
In his down home Southern drawl, Lindsey probably told Kanter and Novak to make sure they “Thunder Up” before landing and wished them the best of luck. What happens back in Utah with the new unproven guys Lindsey brought in from OKC, well, that remains to be seen. But it wouldn’t be the first time Lindsey got something right.