Get to Know Enes Kanter…Some More
Do you wonder about what’s coming to you in your career?
I’m always waiting for my time. You know, whenever coach give me the opportunity, and just, you know, going out there and try to do my best…Two games ago, Big Al [Jefferson] and Paul [Millsap] was hurt. And you know, I played a good game. And last night Big Al was hurt, you know. I just try to do my job.
[What’s it like when you’re playing well?]
Oh, you know, it’s so much fun. You know, it’s so much better than, you know, just playing out there for 15 minutes.
During games, are you thinking in English or in Turkish?
First I got here, like for high school, I didn’t know any English. And my dad taught me how to say “Hello” and how to say my name, and that was it. You know, I just learned English, I’ll be honest, not from like TV or whatevers. It’s texting, you know?
And first, I was, everything, I was, like when someone talk, I was translating Turkish in my head. And then I like try to answer English. Now like, even like when I’m asleep in my dreams, I’m like having like English dreams, you know? So everything’s English now.
[When did your dreams turn into English?]
Two years ago? Yeah, like, even like when I think something, or like when I count like when I’m lifting, when I count, I used to count Turkish. Now when I count, like, I’m counting English. Or like when I think something in my head, or when I’m talking to myself in my head, I’m talking English.
On struggling with English during his first training camp
In training camp [last year], Memo [Okur] was with me so he helped me a little bit. And so after Memo left, it was a little bit hard, because you know, coach was talking a little fast, my teammates were talking a little fast, and I didn’t really get used to, like, how they talk. And they have, like, different accent so I couldn’t really understand them.
But like I, when I like had time with them, and like, on the plane, or on the road games, in the locker room, I started understanding. If I don’t understand anything, I was like looking in my dictionary. And you know, sometimes they even say some words that I was looking in the dictionary, doesn’t even mean anything.
But it’s sometimes still I don’t understand some things that they said.
You were always on your phone last year. Who were you talking to?
I was talking to everybody. My friends. Mostly, mostly girls.
What’s it like in road cities where you don’t know anyone? Are you comfortable venturing out?
Eighty percent of the cities, I know people. But when I don’t, then I’m just, like, you know, hanging out with my teammates. Mostly, you know, Randy [Foye], Jamaal [Tinsley], Big Al, Mo [Williams] sometimes. I’m just hanging out with them, and you know, they just, you know, treating me really good.
On culture shock
First two, three months, I had really hard time. Like the culture, people, language, like how to eat, ’cause I don’t eat pork or anything. So it was really tough, but once you get used to it, it’s just so easy now. It’s like, I feel like this is my home now, not Turkey.
On why he and his brother were sent to the States by themselves
My brother came here when he was 15 years old, so he was, like, really, really young. And he was like same thing. He didn’t know anything, and he didn’t even come like the same city with me…He’s in Boston now, so doesn’t know anybody there.
When I come here, I was with a friend, some Turkish friend, so he help me a little bit and then we like separate in different schools.
[Why did your parents send you and your brother to the States by yourselves?]
I would say just learn the, I guess, the life experience, you know? Because they’re not gonna be there for us, like, ’til we die, you know? And also, my situation was, my club team wanted to sign with me six years, and I didn’t want sign with them. And after I left, they treat my brother really bad, ’cause he was in the same club with me.
So they were really playing with him. So he was always sitting on the bench, and then after a year, he said, you know, that is gonna waste him there, waste his time. And he just decided to come over here too.
/ insert Alec Burks and Derrick Favors nodding sympathetically
On how he started playing basketball
Bits rearranged for chronology.
My all day was just studying, you know? First, I was going to school really early. And then after the school I was staying at the school for like some kind of tutors, or like extra tutoring hours, and working with teacher.
And then I was coming back home and then I was doing my homeworks until like, probably 8 o’clock and then I was eating something, nine, ten. And then just watching like 30 minutes maybe TV and then I going back to sleep. And again, and again. …
One day, like, I was just so tired of like doing like homeworks and studying. So I’m like, you know what, I’m just gonna, like, play something. So I was like playing soccer, playing basketball outside…and then my teacher saw me playing basketball, so they kinda told, “Why don’t you just come join school team?” And I told my dad.
My dad said no. “You know, you just gotta educate, school, you gotta go to work, you gotta finish your school and get a…” Like, I don’t know what he want me to be. I think, I guess he just want me to be like him, you know? And then I said ok…
So two years I didn’t go to basketball. And then after two years, when I was like 15 years old, I was like, you know, I can’t do it anymore. I’m just gonna like, you know, play something, play some sport. …
And you know how did that happen? My dad, so one day we went back to school. It was really snowing. And, let me see. It was really snowing and my teacher called my dad and said we are not going to have tutor today…And then my dad said, “What are we gonna do?” So we went to gym.
I remember, we play one-on-one with him, and I beat him. And my dad was like, I think when I was 15 years old, my dad was taller than me. Yeah, my dad was taller. So I beat him, and then after I beat him, I went back home, and I told my mom, I said, “I’m gonna start playing basketball.”
And then my mom was like, “There is like”–how, what did she say? She said there is like a million kids in Turkey, “Are you gonna be the one who’s gonna be, like, play basketball and just make money?” She said, “I don’t think so, just keep studying, whatever.” …
And then I remember that day, like, I told myself, I’m just gonna like, you know, show my mom and show my dad, you know, I’m gonna, like, play basketball and just, you know, be the good one and just make money…
My mom never thought, my dad never thought I’m gonna be like go to national team, Turkish national team, and then go to draft, NBA. My dad or my mom never thought that. They think, like, I’m just gonna play some, like, some league, some bullshit league in Turkey.
Do your parents watch your games?
I didn’t think they were gonna watch me, ’cause, like, really, like 3, 4 a.m. there. But you know, I, my little brother told me, you know, they wake up and watch every game.
I can’t be sure, but I believe the little brother Enes is referring to is a third brother in Turkey.
Were your folks loaded?
[Do you know what upper class means?]
[Do you know what well-off means?]
[Did you guys have a lot of money?]
We live in nice apartment. It was, like, really close to arena. It was pretty good.
What’s your mom like?
Just a normal mom…She always, like, made my bed, whatever, just make foods, clean my everything. Now I know how it feels, you know? Always try to teach me, like, ’cause she knew I was gonna go to America, so always like try to teach me how to cook, or always try to teach me how to clean, how to make my bed, ’cause I never done it ’til I came here.
Now I know how she feels. So she always, you know, she’s a nice mom.
What do you do in your spare time?
At first I, like, start playing video games. I don’t like video games. And second, I was like, doing some, like, magic tricks, just magic tricks and stuff. So I didn’t like it. So and then, I tried everything…
[Now,] I watch SpongeBob. Most of the time I go home and if you don’t have any signing or charity, I just watch at home. I watch SpongeBob.
On his living arrangement
I live in a house, I’ll say over Capitol…A friend is living with me. He’s, like, helping me driving and doing other stuff.
What do you do with your money?
I just, you know, just put in the bank, and just stay there, and just try to help my family.
What was it like living in L.A. this past summer?
L.A. was crazy. It was pretty nice…It was pretty cool, you know? It was [pause] fun. It was fun.
On growing up a Jazz fan because of Mehmet Okur
I was so happy when I get picked from Utah Jazz…Before the lottery pick, Utah Jazz was sixth, and I was like hoping to just drop sixth to just be Utah Jazz. ‘Cause I watch all Utah Jazz games when I was little. And then after lottery, Utah Jazz up to three, and I was really happy.
And then before the draft I was like really hoping to get a pick from Utah Jazz. And after I get picked, I was so happy because of Memo. I know Utah Jazz because I watched all their games.
And I came here, and you know, Memo help me a lot. He took me [for] some European kind of food, but it’s like supposed to be Turkish food, so he took me over there, you know, and I mean, I was so happy to be with him, you know, ’cause I knew he was gonna help me a lot.
And he was helping me in training camp, and after he get traded, I’m like, “Oh my God.”
I was grinning like an idiot from this part of the interview all the way to the end:
On how Big Al kind of took over Memo’s mentor role
Because I didn’t play any high school or college, you know, I was so rusty, and I, like, I needed to play some games and I needed a mentor. And it was like–how can I say–I remember first time he was talking to me, like, you know, “I’m gonna be here for you, whatever you need me just ask me.”
And I understand that he was a really good guy and he was gonna help me a lot. Now we are like brothers, you know?
Every time I do something, or when he’s hurt or whatever and I get to the locker room, you know, he’s always talking to me. He’s always helping me. He’s always like, even if I do something wrong on the court, before coach I’m just looking at [Al] and he’s telling me, “Do this, do this, whatever.” And he’s, you know, helping me a lot.
[When did he tell you he would be there for you?]
After Memo get traded…First he said it, I’m like, ok, just because Memo left, he didn’t want me to feel bad…A week after Memo get traded, after the practice, he just, I was about to leave the court and he just took me and just play one-on-one with me and try to teach me something.
Did you secretly like getting hazed by Al?
I’ll say it was fun…It was so much fun. When my first year was over, I remember cleaning locker room, whatever, last day, you know, he hugged and say, “You’re a bad rookie, but I’m gonna miss you.” You know, he’s a great guy.
On Al and his 20-20 game
Before the game, in the morning after practice, I had a interview, and after interview, he waited for me. He didn’t leave. He waited for me, and then I talked to him.
He’s like, “I want you to be  tonight, ’cause we need you. We lost three in a row and I’m not gonna play. You know, Paul is not gonna play. You need to step up, you know, and just show yourself. Coach gonna give you an opportunity. Just go home and just think about it and don’t put any too much pressure on you. Just go out there and play like Big Turk.”
And I said ok, you know. And his words was always in my mind. You know, whenever he say something, I’m always like, his words are in my mind. And before the game, he talked to me again. He said, “I believe you gonna do well.” I said “All right.”
And then after I get 20-20, he waited for me in the locker room. And you know, he just hugged me and say “That’s the Big Turkey I want to see.” (LOJ)