BOSTON (CBS) — Enes Kanter could have gotten more money elsewhere this offseason, but he chose to sign a two-year deal with the Boston Celtics. The contract will pay him just under $5 million per season, which is well below the $16+ million paydays he was getting from 2015-2018.
Why take such a pay cut for a team that isn’t being talked about as a title contender? Well, Kanter believes the folks who are picking next year’s title contenders are making a mistake leaving Boston out of the mix.
“The reason I went [to Boston] is for a championship,” Kanter told Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype. “I feel like the team is really young and willing to learn and we have an amazing group of guys. I feel like we can beat any team on any floor. All we have to do is just be good friends and stay together. Let’s just go have fun! It’s definitely going to be a very, very exciting season.
“It’s my ninth year in the league and I understand that, for many people, the money is important. For me, the most important thing is being with a team that you’re really happy on and playing with a team that’s competing for a championship,” Kanter continued. “That was the big thing for me. For everybody else, the money matters [more]. For me, the No. 1 thing was winning.”
Kanter said he’s always viewed the Celtics as a good fit for himself, but he never got a chance to talk with the team before this summer. Danny Ainge called him right when free agency got underway earlier this month, and then had someone else call Kanter a few minutes later to confirm their pact.
“Then, the second time [Ainge] called me, I answered the phone and it wasn’t him. It was Kemba Walker and he was on Danny’s phone. Kemba said, ‘Hey, my man, are we doing this or not?’ Then, he talked to me about the team and everything. That showed me what kind of leader he is, and that made me very happy. That was one of the biggest reasons [I signed with Boston],” explained Kanter.
Another big reason Kanter will be wearing green next season is the man calling the shots on the floor: head coach Brad Stevens.
“He’s the type of coach who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. He’s keeping it real all the time,” Kanter said of his new head coach. “Obviously, he’s one of the youngest coaches in the league and he’s already been so successful and done some amazing things. He’s a little guy! We had a practice and right after the practice, he was playing one-on-one with the ball boys. I’m like, ‘Wow, he’s good!’ He was amazing. I sat there and just watched him for I-don’t-know-how-many minutes. He was playing defense, he was making shots, he was [joking with] them and he was having a lot of fun with them. I was just like, ‘Man, he’s definitely special!’ He definitely played a big role in my decision.”
While Kanter will likely slide in as Boston’s starting center, he knows the success on the Celtics will depend more on the players around him. Mainly, it will fall on the development on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both of whom Kanter believes can take their game to the next level in 2019.
“I think they both have the potential to be All-Stars this year. I think they have all of the tools – they’re hardworking guys, they’re willing to learn, they have amazing character on and off the court and they’re amazingly talented,” he said. “I think for Jaylen and Jayson the ceiling is, of course, to be All-Stars. With their work ethic and leadership, I definitely think they can take our team to the next level and take us really, really deep into the playoffs.”
Kanter said he’s already shared the floor with Brown, playing in some two-on-two action with him against Gordon Hayward and Tacko Fall. He wouldn’t give out too many details on the pick-up games, only that he and Brown won some games and Hayward and Fall won some games.
Most importantly though, Kanter said the group had some fun.