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Knicks have protector in Enes Kanter

On a team reliant on youth, Enes Kanter has become one of the team's veteran leaders.
Enes Kanter has shown that he isn't afraid to come to the aid of his teammates. (Photo: Getty Images)

If there's one thing New York Knicks fans have grown accustomed to over the past 18 years, it's their hometown team rolling over and falling flat once under any kind of duress. 

While the team still blew a 23-point lead to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, things around this team feel different. And it's been spearheaded by the newly-acquired Enes Kanter. 

Picked up in the Carmelo Anthony deal, Kanter has quickly established himself as a veteran leader despite being just 25 years old as he lept to the defense of Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina. 

Speaking with the media on Saturday, James became an analyst, saying the Knicks passed up on "the diamond in the rough" in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. out of NC State during the 2017 NBA Draft. Picking eighth, the Knicks chose to go with Ntilikina, the highly-touted French point guard who is just 19 years old. 

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That didn't fly with Kanter:

While James attempted to backtrack and say his comment was a shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson, there was some ill will between the King and the rookie. After James slammed home a two-handed alley-oop in the final minute of the first quarter, the Cleveland star stood over Ntilikina, who was picking up the dead ball. 

Ntilikina shoved the immovable James three times before the official stepped in between them. While Ntilikina was being lectured by the referee, Kanter came in and got right in James' face. 

There was no backing down and the Garden absolutely loved it. It sparked Kanter's big night as he put up season highs with 20 points and 16 rebounds.

We all know what happened next, though. The Cavaliers exploded in the second half to complete a huge comeback with James providing the dagger, a step-back three-pointer over Kristaps Porzingis to cap off a night in which he recorded 23 points with 12 assists and nine rebounds. 

But Kanter refused to shy away from James even after the disappointing night. 

"I don't care who you are, what you call yourself, King, Queen, Princess, whatever you are," Kanter said. "You know what? We are going to fight and nobody out there is going to punk us."

If Kanter has shown Knicks fans anything, it's that he clearly enjoys being a member of this organization. This is the kind of fire he lacked in Oklahoma City, which could have been because the Thunder were dominated by big personalities like Russell Westbrook and earlier, Kevin Durant.

Shortly after the game, he even took to Twitter again to let it be known how much he adores his teammates:

Knowing that there is a 6-foot-11, 245-pound big man ready to put everything on the line to protect his teammates has to be reassuring for those playing alongside Kanter. 

It has to feel just as good for head coach Jeff Hornacek and general manager Scott Perry that the Knicks were able to attain a player that looks to be a vital glue guy in the lockerroom.  

 
 
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