Celtics Vet Sounds Off on Lack of Playing Time, Ime Udoka Responds

Ime Udoka addresses Enes Kanter's tweet

Getty Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka directs his team.

From his activism against China’s government to ridiculing NBA superstar LeBron James for his public handling of the COVID-19 vaccine, to advocating for Tibetan independence, Enes Kanter has been vastly outspoken since returning to Boston this offseason.

While the Turkish center continues to use his platform in hopes of encouraging social change, Kanter has been making far less of a statement on the basketball court. On the heels of totaling 1,758 minutes with the Portland Trail Blazers a season ago — his most since 2017-18 —  Kanter has logged just 10 minutes this season. On November 14th, the former no. 3 overall pick took to Twitter to touch on his limited usage with the Celtics, sharing a video with the caption “Keep limiting me on the court, I will expose you off the court.”

Ime Udoka Addresses Kanter’s Lack of Play Time

Brought back to Boston this offseason on a veteran’s minimum deal, Kanter has been an afterthought in the C’s frontcourt, where fellow veteran Al Horford and rising big man Robert Williams eat up the majority of the minutes. In total, Kanter has appeared in only two games for the Celtics this season, averaging 5.0 minutes, 2.0 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

Questioned about Kanter’s tweet and whether his politics have played a part in his lack of floor time, head coach Ime Udoka emphasized that the 29-year-old’s lack of playing time is “strictly based on basketball,” and that there are no other factors at play.

“I’ve talked to him, and I saw (his posts),” Udoka said at the Celtics shootaround on November 16th, via Mass Live. “The thing I tell players is that we have a lot of guys that aren’t playing that could be playing and want to play.”

“I’ve talked to those guys about staying prepared and being professional and ready to play. I’ve been through the same situation as a player,” Udoka added. “And I’ve talked to Enes about the reasons he’s not playing as much in some of the things we’re doing, defensively, in areas for him to improve on.”

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Udoka Backs Kanter

The comments from Udoka shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, the Celtics and fellow teammates have voiced their support for Kanter dating back to his signing this past offseason. As recently as October, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens told “Toucher and Rich” of 98.5 The Sports Hub that “we’re always going to support any of our players and their right to freedom of speech and expression.”

Udoka doubled down on Stevens’ take at shootaround, reiterating that Kanter has not been a distraction. “I don’t have social media. I’ve heard of some things but guys have the right to express their views, and I’ve said that from Day 1,” he proclaimed. “Nothing basketball-related will be based on any of that.”

As Udoka alluded to, Kanter isn’t the lone player on the Celtics roster who would readily warrant rotational minutes elsewhere. Payton Pritchard and Jabari Parker have each seen sporadic usage and a dip in minutes under the first-year head coach. Juancho Hernangomez, a player acquired in a trade that shipped off both Kris Dunn and Carsen Edwards, and who at his peak averaged nearly 30 minutes per game with the Timberwolves for an abbreviated stint in 2019,  has been used almost as sparingly as Kanter. Playing a total of 19 minutes over the Celtics’ first 13 games, the 26-year-old has already become the subject of trade speculation.

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