The real reason why the Boston Celtics didn’t play Enes Kanter on Wednesday

A lot happened during the Boston Celtics’ first game of the season, but one of the most notable aspects of the game was something that never happened. Despite missing out on center Al Horford, who was unavailable due to a positive Covid-19 test, new coach Ime Udoka never brought veteran big man Enes Kanter off the bench in what ended up being a double loss 138-134 to the Celtics in extra time. .

The main reason Kanter didn’t play is because Robert Williams started and probably had the most complete game of his career. In 45 minutes, he scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds while not making a mistake until overtime. There was simply no reason for coach Aimee Odoka to keep Williams off the ground for any length of time other than rest, and this was the first game of the regular season.

When Williams sat down, Odoka played striker Grant Williams as a petite ball center, a possible indication of how he handled the roster differently than his former boss. When Brad Stevens was the head coach, he loved Kanter’s energy and instant attack off the bench so much that he tried to find ways to hide his infamous defense. Under Stevens, Kanter played 16.9 minutes per game for the Celtics, averaging 8.1 points per game and 7.4 rebounds.

More from ForbesWhy isn’t Enes Kanter the new Al Horford

Unlike Schroeder, the de facto reserve point guard behind Marcus Smart, Kanter belongs on the back of the bench at this point in his career. He is not an ordinary player but he is the most useful when employed strategically. While he’s still a stunning trailblazer who can blast off the rounds to score goals, he has never improved on his defense since the days with the Oklahoma City Thunder where he earned the hateful nickname “Can’t Play Kanter”.

Most likely, we will see Kanter play big minutes against teams where his defensive responsibilities can be hidden. Look for it as an offensive spark off the bench or an “emergency glass breaker” type when injuries, fatigue, and mistakes start to become a factor. In a tight, highly competitive game like Wednesday night’s thriller, it made sense that the Celtics, well, couldn’t play Kanter. Whatever he could give the team against the Knicks, whether on the offensive glass or as a top scorer, it’s unlikely to be worth the massive defensive cut.

Even if the always controversial Kanter continues to make international headlines for his social justice stances, he won’t be the main story in tonight’s opening game against the Toronto Raptors. No, the big story about basketball’s return to TD Garden will likely involve Jason – Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown – whose career years after the 2020-21 season are set to be forgotten. Kanter would sit back on the bench, waiting for his number to be called. It’s coming sooner or later, the NBA season is long and it’s just getting started.

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