When asked about what interactions Enes Kanter may have with his ostensible best friend and ex-teammate Steven Adams, the affable Turkish big grew the goofy, coy smile Thunder devotees knew very well.
“Well, actually,” Kanter trailed off for a second, as he often did while still with the Thunder, while he mentally chewed on whether or not he should say what he was thinking about saying. He let it fly: “[Steven] told me that from the jump ball he might elbow [me].”
All the reporters laughed, but the bond between Adams and Kanter was so brotherly that the outcome Kanter joked about is in the realm of possibility.
They weren’t called the ‘Stache Bros for nothing.
For the next 20 seconds, Kanter gushed about Adams, and really, all of his former Thunder teammates. He’s a professional and would never say as much, but something tells me Enes would rather still be here in Oklahoma City.
As weird as Kanter said it felt to return to OKC, it won’t get any weirder for him than the moments right before tipoff, where potentially millions will watch Russell Westbrook either blow off his former teammate or accept him back graciously with a hug. With Westbrook, you really never know.
Carmelo Anthony, who may or may not have gotten dinner with his former Knicks teammates on Wednesday night, is adjusting to new surroundings for just the second time heading into his 15th NBA season. Unlike Kanter’s, Anthony’s exit was acrimonious. He accused the Knicks (especially ex-Knicks president Phil Jackson of stabbing him in the back.
He might be right, he might be wrong. But there’s no question that he’s in a better situation now than the Jackson-era Knicks, basketball culturally speaking. New York is basketball hell.
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) October 19, 2017
While Melo didn’t leave on good terms with the Knicks front office, by all accounts (especially this glowing one from ex-Thunder and current Knicks player Lance Thomas), Melo was one of few rock-steady forces in an incredibly tumultuous franchise. While Melo likely doesn’t miss or care for the Knicks brass, he undoubtedly still has love for his old teammates.
The NBA is a business, and it’s wise to remember that. And while teams can do a number of things to shield fans from the cold reality of top-level business (e.g. marketing, community outreach, social media campaigns, etc.), players are well-aware of their value relative to the bottom line of their respective franchise. They know this deep down. And if they don’t, they will soon.
Melo and Kanter? Yeah, they definitely know.
There are much, much worse NBA fates than Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony have endured, especially considering where they’ve ended up. But the road here wasn’t easy.
We all know Carmelo Anthony’s story. Widely criticized (and, perhaps, rightly so) about prioritizing money and personal comfort over winning with the Knicks, Melo is now playing with two stars brighter than any other he’s played with — with all due respect to Misters Iverson and Stoudemire. In his 15th year, it’s put up or shut up time. This is legacy defining for Melo.
Enes Kanter, on the other hand, was all but chased out of Utah by a fanbase so rabid that he still draws boos — and likely still will the one time a year he visits Salt Lake City with the Knicks. Ultimately, the Portland Trailblazers offered him the money that the Jazz would not, and the Thunder felt as if they had to match it to keep Kevin Durant around.
It didn’t work, but the Thunder were saddled with Kanter’s slightly redundant contract, hamstringing GM Sam Presti’s hopes of overhauling the roster into one the could compete with Golden State. Enes simply had to go.
And so Kanter and Anthony both find themselves in similar positions on opening night, squaring up against a team whose uniform they had last worn just five months ago. In speaking with the media, both have been fairly candid about their feelings heading into the opening night matchup, but manyh questions still remain.
One thing is for certain: it may be awkward before the opening tip, but after that? It’s all business for the the guys wearing blue, orange, and white.