“I did not say, ‘Scott, trade me.’ No I did not say that,” Kanter told reporters after the Knicks’ 115-108 loss in Denver on Tuesday night. “Because I like it here a lot. And I probably won’t say to Scott’s face, ‘Scott I want to get traded.’ Because I like it here a lot.
“But again, in the end, we all are competitors, basketball players. I like it here so much, but again I want to win. I want this team to get to the playoffs one day. This is my blood, man. … I’m going out there to get a win every time.”
Kanter scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in just 20 minutes of work Tuesday night. He is averaging 14.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, but he ranks 60th in defensive real plus-minus amid the 61 qualified centers.
Kanter, 26, has been out of the Knicks’ starting lineup for the past three games and talked publicly about his frustration with that role last week.
“I don’t understand,” he said Saturday. “This is too early in the season to shut me down. My goal is to go out there and try to be an All-Star this year. That was my goal. But now, look at the situation.”
The Knicks (9-29) have lost eight in a row — and 15 of their past 17 games — and are tied with the Phoenix Suns for the second-worst record in the NBA. Kanter on Tuesday said he’s most bothered by the losing, not his diminished role.
“All this anger and frustration is coming from losing,” Kanter said. “It’s not fun to lose 12, 13, whatever in a row. It’s not fun. It’s just tough, man. But obviously I had a meeting with Scott [Monday]. We talked about — he just said, ‘You know, this is the growth. This is one of your biggest tests in your career, so just try to be a good teammate.’
“I even asked Scott, ‘Scott, if you were in my situation, what would you do?'” he added. “He said, ‘The whole league knows you. Right now, we know that you are a very, very good basketball player. Now I want you to go out there and try to have that good character, try to be a good teammate and try to help all the people.’ I understand we’re not winning a lot right now. But I guess it’s all for the young guys.”
Kanter is in the final year of his contract, making $18.6 million this season. The Knicks would need to find a trade who matched Kanter’s salary, and they aren’t interested in acquiring a player who is under contract for next season while the team is in such a transition.
Kanter, who had started the Knicks’ previous 19 games before being replaced by second-year center Luke Kornet, said several times on Tuesday that the Knicks’ goals are centered on developing younger players.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Just help the young guys and try to be the best teammate you can be. So that’s what I’m trying to do,” Kanter said. “This organization is paying me. I don’t want no free money. So every time I’m out there I’m going to try to get a win. [It’s] just it’s a little weird, people are calling me from all over the league. They’re just saying, ‘Keep your head up and stay strong.’ Even my own teammates are texting me and telling me just stay strong and keep your head up. I know what I’m capable of. I know this is the situation so I’m just sucking it up and trying to be a good teammate.”
The Knicks are trying to build a young core around injured big man Kristaps Porzingis. A high pick in June’s draft would certainly boost that effort. The club also hopes to sign a top free agent this summer. To have enough cap space to sign a max free agent, the club would have to renounce their rights to Kanter.
ESPN’s Ian Begley contributed to this report.