Friday, June 24, 2011

Utah Jazz

Newark, N.J. • The new era has begun. Enes Kanter will be wearing a Jazz uniform. And Utah finally has the potential for the inside force it has long lacked.
The Jazz selected Kanter with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft on Thursday at the Prudential Center. Moments after hearing his much-discussed name attached to Salt Lake City, the 19-year-old Kanter was joyful. He seldom stopped smiling during an hourlong media session that followed his selection. And he answered any lingering questions about his desire to play for the small-market Jazz by going over the top.
“I love to get hit,” the 6-foot-11, 259-pound Turkish native said. “I just love to play toughness. So it doesn’t matter who. I’m just going to put myself in the court 100 percent.”
Kanter also loves to score. He has the body to be a beast inside. But he has the soft touch, athleticism and basketball intelligence that only premier NBA centers possess.
The assets left the Jazz in awe. Utah scouted Kanter in depth, twice doing so during moments such as Kentucky practices, as the big man got in the only collegiate work he could due to his NCAA ineligibility. By the time a weak 2011 draft class filtered out and the Jazz’s draft board cleared up, Kanter ranked just below No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving, who went to Cleveland at No. 1.
Then, Thursday simply came down to waiting. Rumors and smokescreens swirled, while names such as Brandon Knight and Derrick Williams were anonymously attached to No. 3. But Kanter was Utah’s man the entire time.
“It got clearer and clearer as we went through it,” Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor said.
Clarity arrived June 3 in Chicago. After viewing Kanter in mid-May at the annual NBA Draft combine, the Jazz set up a private workout with the mysterious player who hadn’t run through legitimate five-on-five action in more than a year. It was make or break time for Kanter, with a pick Utah acquired in the blockbuster Deron Williams trade hanging in the balance.
Kanter excelled, proving his Internet-fueled hype was deserved. Then he attacked the paint while Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin defended him, muscling up against his new mentor and erasing any remaining doubts.
“We did our homework. … We saw him in preseason, and he worked so hard,” O’Connor said. “We like his size and his motor. He is a willing worker. He is going to get better every day. You get a big guy that will run the floor and work like he does, he will be successful.”
Kanter will be challenged, though. He enters the NBA staring at a loaded depth chart that features Jazz big men Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Mehmet Okur.
Despite not having played a professional game, some have already shouldered Kanter with the stereotype of being a classic draft bust.
His offensive post and face-up attacks are works in progress. And he will have to adjust to the public fascination and pressure that are wrapped in the package of being a hotly debated early first-round pick for a rebuilding Jazz team that failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2006.
Kanter said he’s prepared for it all. He plans to answer all questions by his play on the court.
“I hate to lose and … I love to play a tough game,” Kanter said.