On Wednesday, Kanter hardly seemed to be rattled by the notion that Turkey would like to put him in jail.
“Four years? That’s it?” he said to reporters as the Knicks practiced ahead of a game on Thursday against Boston. “For all of the trash I’ve been talking?”
Kanter is a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdogan who has been living in the United States since 1999. Gulen was accused by Turkey of orchestrating the failed coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016.
Kanter has continued to support Gulen publicly since the failed coup and on Wednesday he criticized Erdogan again, calling him a “maniac.”
Kanter also suggested that the better the Knicks do this season — and so far they are playing above expectations with a 16-14 record — the more it will agitate Erdogan.
“If we make playoffs, then that will drive him crazy,’’ Kanter said. “Just make the playoffs and drive the dude crazy.”
In that regard, the 6-foot-11 Kanter has more than done his job since joining the Knicks. When he arrived in New York, it was not clear how much playing time he would get, with the Knicks seemingly committed to giving Willy Hernangomez a chance to be the team’s starting center.
Instead, Kanter has pushed Hernangomez to the bench and is averaging 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game while often combining effectively with Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks’ leading scorer.
Meanwhile, the issues of the country he was raised in — despite having Turkish parents, Kanter was born in Switzerland — seems to be constantly on Kanter’s mind. During an interview over dinner in October with a reporter for The New York Times, Turkey and its president were constant subjects.
“I want people to know what Turkey is doing,” he said during the dinner. “I want to tell the whole media and everybody, ‘O.K., this is what’s going on in Turkey.’”
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the Turkish president in some instances. He is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not Erdrogan.