The Blazers have Dame Lillard and a clear path to the playoffs. Kanter called Portland, “the best place I can be.”
The Lakers, of course, have the greatest player of his generation. But Kanter wasn’t captivated by the thought of playing with LeBron James.
“It would be very weird. To go back to MSG and play the Knicks. It would be very weird,” said Kanter, who participated in his first Blazers practice on Wednesday in Brooklyn. “But I’m glad because I picked Portland.”
It feels like a lifetime ago, but the last time Kanter faced James at the Garden was Nov. 13 of 2017. It was memorable for a few reasons. First, James indirectly insulted Frank Ntilikina by saying the Knicks should’ve drafted Dennis Smith Jr. Then Ntilikina got into a minor shoving match with James, prompting Kanter to jump in and yell in the face of ‘The King.’
“I don’t care who you are. King – what do you call yourself? – King, queen, princess, whatever you are,” Kanter said at the time. “You know what? We’re going to fight. And nobody out there going to punk us.”
In that moment, Kanter was a hero to Knicks fans. But about a year later, he was cut from the starting lineup, then the rotation, and then the roster. Last summer, Kanter pleaded LeBron to come to New York.
The Knicks’ stated purpose for demoting Kanter was to develop their younger players, but there was also a tanking consequence. Kanter didn’t appreciate being benched as the team was bombarded by defeats. But after making those grievances public the last two months, he said all issues were squashed.
The Knicks did the 26-year-old a favor by waiving him without demanding he leave money on the table in a buyout. It allowed him to sign with the Trail Blazers for the remainder of the season.
“You got to understand, they are going in a different direction. They want the young guys to get better of course. I understand that,” Kanter said. “But I’m closing that chapter. I even texted coach (David) Fizdale and everybody and wished them well.
“I miss the playoffs.”
The Lakers and James, meanwhile, invade the Garden on March 17.
“Before I left (the Knicks), I had a conversation with Steve Mills, Scott Perry and David Fizdale,” Kanter said. “It was actually went really well. I wished them well. They wished me well. They said there’s no hard feelings. I told them I understand what you guys are trying to do.”