Billy Donovan source of Enes Kanter’s playoff motivation versus OKC Thunder

Steven Adams, OKC Thunder tries to get a shot off against Enes Kanter (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Steven Adams, OKC Thunder tries to get a shot off against Enes Kanter (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

Former OKC Thunder big man Enes Kanter credits bench boss Billy Donovan for his first-round performance when he arguably outplayed Steven Adams.

In the age of social media athletes and coaches need to take heed of how quickly actions land in the mainstream. Or the fact these items don’t disappear — they just keep returning when it’s least convenient. Such is the case for OKC Thunder Head Coach, Billy Donovan who infamously got caught on film telling his Assistant Coach, Maurice Cheeks the club couldn’t play Enes Kanter. The year was 2016-17 and the Rockets took down the OKC in five games in the first-round playoff series.

It’s not like it was a big secret Kanter was a more well rounded offensive talent and struggled on the defensive side of the ball. Still, the former Thunder player and “Stache Brother” to Steven Adams is considered a positive asset given his other assets. At 7′ Kanter is a capable scorer, and above average in both rebounding and playmaking.

Which was one of the big reasons the Portland Trail Blazers jumped on adding him this past Spring when the Knicks waived the big man. Hindsight proved important as starting big man Jusuf Nurkic fell to a horrific injury in which he broke his leg.

Enter Kanter into the first-round series featuring the OKC Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. Initially, the one position on the court which should’ve gone the way of the Thunder was the starting center position. Instead, it was the Turkish big man who got the better of our Big Kiwi.

Kanter bested Adams in every key stat category outscoring him 13.2 points to 11.8 points and 2.0 to 1.4 assists. However, the area which arguably hurt the most was the glass. Kanter outrebounded Adams 10.2 to 7.2 rebounds even taking the advantage in offensive boards (3.6 to 2.4) an area which the Thunder center has dominated in over the course of his career.

In an interview with Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype Kanter cited Donovan as his inspiration behind his performance in the playoffs.

"There was this video where [Donovan] says, “Can’t play Kanter,” so I just wanted to go out there and prove everybody wrong. I wanted to go show the whole world, yes, I can play. Yes, you can play Kanter. My focus was just going out there and playing for my team and just winning. With the leadership of Dame [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum], the game just comes so easily and we were able to win that series."

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This offseason Kanter moved on yet again joining the Boston Celtics and Danny Ainge provided a humorous take stating Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter were the players Boston earmarked as priorities entering free agency.

The Walker portion of this statement is believable given Ainge already knew Kyrie Irving was likely exiting Boston as the writing had been on the wall regarding the broken relationship with the star point guard and the Celts going back to midseason.

But, in truth, the Kanter part of that equation is more of a situation where Ainge is trying to turn a bad turn of events into a positive scenario (as per Brian Windhorst on the Hoop Collective podcast).

Why else would Ainge be complaining about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford? Perhaps Ainge did earmark Kanter but the likelihood was to be in the backup role, not as a starter.

As for Kanter versus Adams, I’m still not convinced the Big Kiwi wasn’t playing with injuries, albeit so was Kanter, but in a typical series, I’d pick Adams to win the defensive battle 99 times out of 100.

One thing is certain, Adams will need to show progress this season to warrant his $25,842,697 contract or find himself on the trade block if he isn’t already. As for Kanter, he should offer plenty of humor in Beantown interacting with fans and will provide the Celts with the upfront size they were sorely missing after the exit of Horford and Aron Baynes.

Next. Thank you, Russell Westbrook; a trip down memory lane. dark

Regardless of where Kanter plays or who coaches in OKC, Kanter will always be one of the most beloved former Thunder players.