Jazzman Kanter’s beast mentality a thing of beauty

Jan 7 2014 - 1:35am

Images

Charlotte Bobcats' Bismack Biyombo, left, goes over the back of Utah Jazz's Enes Kanter as they try for the loose ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Jazz won 83-80.
(AP Photo/Gene Sweeney Jr.)
Charlotte Bobcats' Bismack Biyombo, left, goes over the back of Utah Jazz's Enes Kanter as they try for the loose ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Jazz won 83-80.
(AP Photo/Gene Sweeney Jr.)

SALT LAKE CITY -- Enes Kanter insists he's having more fun these days, which begs the question: Is the Utah Jazz center having fun because he's playing better or is he playing better because he's having more fun?

Trick question. The answer is neither.

"My thing is, it's not about basketball right now," Kanter said. "It's (about) just being focused. If I'm focused, then I'm OK. But if I'm not focused, little distractions sometimes can effect me."

The 21-year-old has lots of talent, that much seemed clear when he scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds in Utah's 110-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last week. But despite his size, quickness and overall talent, the inability to stay focused has kept Kanter from being more consistent.

That much seemed clear when he was held to single-digit scoring seven times during a nine-game stretch last month.

He was held scoreless in two of those games, shooting a combined 0-for-10 from the field.

But Kanter said Utah's coaching staff advised him to stop stressing and have more fun on the floor.

"I talked to my coaches, they gave me so much confidence and I'm playing real comfortable out there the last four or five games," he said.

And winning ballgames helps when it comes to having fun, he said.

Kanter averaged 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in November but the Jazz went 2-14 in the win-loss column. They improved to 7-9 in December but Kanter's averages dropped to 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

He was also moved to the bench, where his playing time was cut by nearly 10 minutes a contest.

But he said he'll gladly trade more wins for more playing time.

"Oh definitely, (winning is) so much fun," he said. "Losing isn't fun. When you're winning like that, I mean, there's like a different atmosphere with the team."

Kanter put up better numbers in November but the Jazz were playing with a shorthanded roster for much of the time, meaning he was often on the court at the end of lopsided losses and playing against backups.

Although his scoring average is better as a starter, he and Derrick Favors didn't always play well together in the starting lineup. When forward Marvin Williams returned from injury, coach Tyrone Corbin moved him into the starting lineup and asked Kanter to join Alec Burks as his top two reserves.

The move has added more consistency to the bench, which has helped improved the team's win-loss record.

Corbin said Kanter has benefited from coming off the bench and playing against opposing reserves. It has allowed him to improve his confidence and it has also forced the other teams to account for him in the middle of the Jazz's offense.

"He's playing a lot better, he's getting back to his old ways," Corbin said. "He's being a beast down low. We're able to go to him in the post and he's making pretty good moves. He's tried to make some good passes down there when the teams (double team) him."

Kanter said he doesn't mind coming off the bench and insisted most of his frustrations this season have come because of getting in foul trouble early in games.

Other than that, he said he can't pinpoint what was taking his focus away last month.

"I don't know, it's just me I guess," he said. "I just have to be focused on each game. I guess it's just in my mind."

Contact reporter Jim Burton at 801-625-4265, or at jburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo.

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