Knicks take on Wizards in London without Kanter
After several days of sightseeing, charitable events and team dinners, the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards will get down to business Thursday at London's O2 Arena.
Playing in the London game means obligations and opportunities beyond the court as the two teams, though not among the NBA's elite, are representing the league on the world stage.
The Knicks (10-33), in fact, are playing their third game in London since 2013.
"We'll try to do it in a way that doesn't have them on their feet a lot," Knicks coach David Fizdale told the New York Post regarding the planned outings. "But they gotta see all of that. They gotta experience it. The whole beauty of this is learning about new culture, new food, new everything. You gotta open up your mind."
New York can certainly use the time away from basketball. The Knicks are in a 2-17 stretch and things won't get any easier against Washington as they will be without their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, Enes Kanter.
Kanter, who has feuded with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stayed in the United States due to worries about his safety. A Turkish newspaper reported that Turkish prosecutors are seeking an international arrest warrant and extradition for Kanter, claiming he's a member of a terror organization.
He responded on Twitter on Wednesday, writing, in part, "Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing."
Recently, he told the Post: "I'm going to stay here and practice. It's pretty sad. All this stuff affects my career in basketball. I want to help my team win, but because of one lunatic guy I can't even go there to do my job. They got a lot of spies there. I can get killed pretty easy."
The Knicks did get a boost Sunday with the return of guard Frank Ntilikina, who had been out because of an ankle sprain.
Washington (18-26) is heading in the opposite direction. Even after losing in double overtime to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, the Wizards have won five of eight despite the ongoing absences of Dwight Howard and John Wall.
Over a six-day stretch, Washington defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks (who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo).
Wall is done for the year and Howard's return date is uncertain, but the Wizards are only 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the East.
"We've had some tough injuries all season long, but we've kind of stepped up and battled for one another and we've got to continue to do that for the remaining part of the season," coach Scott Brooks told the Sporting News.
"You're talking two high-level starters -- an All-Star starting point guard and Dwight has been one of our big signings this summer. It's difficult, but our guys aren't using it as an excuse. They're coming out there and competing and hopefully we can continue to do that and battle for a playoff spot."
New York will have to find a way to stop Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who is averaging 36 points over his past three games and 24.8 per game on the season.
Starting in place of Howard, 21-year-old Thomas Bryant is contributing 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
"I expect us to just try and come out here with a lot of energy and try to get this win," Bryant told the Sporting News. "Just because we're overseas it doesn't take away from the most important thing and that's the game of basketball, trying to stack up some good key quality wins."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 16, 2019