The Kings are reportedly involved in trade talks regarding a deal that would send Zach Randolph to the New York Knicks in exchange for Enes Kanter.
A league source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski talks were underway, but the two sides were not close to a deal. Sources told The Sacramento Bee that nothing was imminent as of Wednesday afternoon.
Kanter, 26, has an $18.6 million contract that expires at the end of the season. He has grown frustrated with his role in New York as the struggling Knicks have emphasized the development of their young players.
Kanter, a 6-foot-11, 250-pound Turkish center who was selected by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, went to New York in the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder in September 2017. Kanter is not considered a good defender, but his ability to rebound could help the Kings, who are 18th in the NBA in rebounding.
Kanter started 71 games for the Knicks last season, averaging 14.1 points and 11 rebounds. He has started 23 games this season, posting averages of 14.4 points and 11 rebounds, but went to a backup role last month, a move he has bemoaned. The Knicks have lost 10 of their last 11 games.
“It’s very embarrassing,” Kanter told Newsday. “I understand we want our young guys to get better. But it’s very painful to watch it. I try to stay positive and help the young guys get better, but like I said, I have no idea why they’re doing that.”
Randolph, 37, is on an expiring $11.6 million contract. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forward was a two-time All-Star with the Memphis Grizzlies before coming to Sacramento. He averaged a team-high 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds last season, but he has not played this season as the team embraced a youth movement.
In October, Randolph told The Bee he had not requested a trade and said he understood the team’s decision.
“I want to play, I love to play and I still feel like I’ve got a lot left, but I understand what they’re doing with these young guys,” Randolph said.
Wojnarowski reported the Kings would like to include other players with expiring contracts in the deal — possibly Kosta Koufos or Ben McLemore — adding that a third team could be helpful in getting a deal done. A Newsday report cited a Knicks source who said there has not been a “robust market” for Kanter, who has averaged 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in eight NBA seasons.
Kanter has been a vocal critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for years, prompting the Turkish government to issue a warrant for his arrest alleging he is a member of a “terror group.” Kanter recently told the Knicks he will not travel with the team to London for its game against the Washington Wizards next week because he fears he could be killed by Turkish spies.
This prompted a sharp rebuke from former Kings forward Hedo Turkoglu, who now serves as a chief advisor to Erdogan.
“Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradiction in his sports career,” Turkoglu said in a statement posted on Twitter. “... It is obvious that this person’s remarks are irrational and distort the truth.”
Acquiring Kanter might make the Kings more willing to part with center Willie Cauley-Stein, who could become a restricted free agent this summer. The Kings have pursued Washington Wizards small forward Otto Porter Jr. in free agency and trade talks over the past couple of years. Cauley-Stein could be a key player in a deal for Porter.