BOSTON -- I went to a Kemba Walker coronation yesterday at the Red Auerbach Center in Brighton, and a love affair with Enes Kanter broke.
Don’t get me wrong, Kemba is the real deal. He seems like a nice guy. He acknowledges people around him. He says all of the right things about playing for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back. We know, one-on-one, he can score at will.
But of the $4 billion spent the first week of NBA’s 2019 free agency, one particular, rinky-dinky $10 million investment on Kanter, over two years, by the Boston Celtics may, a crazy as this sounds, be a game-changer.
The unlikeable Celtics, all of sudden, seem very likeable again with this addition.
From afar, the Turkish center, who turned 27 in May, doesn’t really have game-changer written all over him. The Celtics will be his fifth NBA home entering his ninth season.
If he was so good, then why the so many homes and minute salary?
Well, he’s an old-school back to the basket kind of center, which is like being a full-back in the NFL. Rare.
But Kanter brings more, including five consecutive seasons of 14.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. In case you were wondering, Al Horford’s numbers the last two seasons in Boston were 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Kanter, though, is not replacing Horford, whose ability to move the ball is elite at the center position.
But Kanter is bringing energy and big smiles, both notably missing in Kyrie’s final year.
“I think it’s important to have fun, and to have a guy who likes to joke around in the locker room and keep guys loose,” said Kanter. “I love this game. I love to win. But I love to enjoy myself, too.”
Kanter has immersed himself into the area in just two weeks, showing up at the Auerbach facility almost every day.
He went to his first baseball game at Fenway Park last night.
He admits to feeling a kinship with Celtics fans already.
“When we came to Boston, in the locker room before the game our coach says ‘Don’t let the fans get in your head,’ “ said Kanter. “They’re great.”
After several early questions were directed Kanter’s way during the official press conference, the Celtics media relations person requested questions for the man of the hour, Kemba.
Kanter said he chose No. 11 because it was one of the few available -- that’s a running Celtics joke -- and it was the same number he had in Oklahoma City for 2 1/2 seasons.
It was Kyrie’s number.
Kanter, who is obviously up with the times, said he “hopes that nobody ever wears No. 11 again” after he is done with it. A nice jab at Kyrie, who said the same thing about eight months ago.
Celtics team president Danny Ainge said not only was acquiring Kemba and Kanter their go-to plan when it was obvious Kyrie and Horford were gone, but said the Celtics were lucky Kanter chose the Celtics.
“He could’ve made more money elsewhere,” said Ainge. “But he wanted to be here.”
Wow. That’s refreshing.
There’s more refreshing news. Kanter is also a huge Tom Brady fan, something he was going to admit on stage with Kemba and the Celtics brass.
“I was afraid, too, I guess,” said Kanter. “But I’m saying it now. I want to meet Tom Brady. I hope he hears it.”
He will. Especially coming from him.
And I have to admit, I like this Celtics team already.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.
Kanter a 3-point shooter?
The record book says, no, Enes Kanter is not a 3-point shooter.
Kanter has attempted only 143 3-pointers over his eight-year career, averaging only 0.5 attempts per game over the last five years.
But “bigs” in Boston, really every player per coach Brad Stevens orders, usually attempts at least one 3-pointer per game.
Stevens saw Kanter shooting and making 3-pointers last week and was apparently impressed.
Ex-Celtic center Aron Baynes attempted only seven 3-pointers in five seasons before joining the Celtics. He averaged 1.2 attempts per game last season.
“(Enes is) not going to be a volume guy,” said Stevens. “But if can make a few of them, it will make guys guard him.”
Kanter said that kind of confidence means a lot.
“I will definitely be working on it,” said Kanter of the long ball. “Having him say that makes me want to work harder.”