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Enes Kanter will not play for Turkish national team, reasons unclear

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Everyone loses, except maybe injury-wary Thunder fans.

Not this year, maybe not ever again?
Not this year, maybe not ever again?
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Enes Kanter will not be joining the Turkish national team for this September's Eurobasket.

But that's all we can say for certain. The reasons as to why are very unclear. Both Kanter and the Turkish national team have different versions of the story.

According to Kanter, the national team literally never invited him. Kanter has expessed a desire to return to the national team, and claims that his connection to the Gülen movement motivated his exclusion from the team. The Gülen/Hizmet movement, according to Wikipedia, is a, "transnational religious and social movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar and preacher Fethullah Gülen." Today's Zaman, a Turkish news source, appears to give credence to Kanter's side of the story:

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government launched a battle against the Hizmet movement in late 2013 following the exposure of a graft and bribery probe in which senior government members were implicated. Accusing the movement of having orchestrated the probe, the government has since waged a war on Hizmet-affiliated schools, banks, media organizations and individuals. Kantar is thought to have become the latest victim of the AK Party's battle against the movement as he had previously revealed his links to the Hizmet movement, which preaches tolerance and interfaith dialogue between Islam and other religions.

On the other side of this battle is Turkish coach Ergin Ataman. According to Ataman, Enes Kanter simply did not return his calls on two occasions. Here's what Ataman had to say, via the Daily Sabah and the Hurriyet Daily News:

"Enes did not join in national team although we invited him. Last year when I was assigned to the national team, I said I wanted to see all our players in our team. Then we tried to contact with him. But I did not receive any answer from him despite all my efforts."

"He still has not apologized to his teammates for past incidents, but he may be a part of the squad in the future."

In the past, Kanter played for the Turkish national team during the 2011 Eurobasket. However, Kanter refused invitations to the national team during the 2010 World Championship and the 2012 Olympics. Kanter was forced to miss national team duties in 2013 due to a shoulder injury. During Kanter's 2013 absence, he was openly antagonistic towards the national team on Twitter. Specifically, Kanter laughed at the national team's early exit at the hands of Greece, and drew the ire of Turkish basketball legend Mehmet Okur.

In 2014, it was the same story for Kanter. An off-season knee surgery kept Enes from appearing in the World Championship. But Kanter still had problems with how the Turkish national team handled the situation. Here's what Kanter had to say, via a translated interview with Turkish newspaper Hürriyet:

"I have watched the lies with patience. They try to make Turkish fans distrust me. Enes is fine. His knee is fine. He uses this excuse to skip NT. He doesn’t tell anything to NT. There was not an MR report by my doctor when they said my knee was OK. I am more willing than previous seasons to wear the Turkish NT jersey. I will be fully ready to join full performance matches at the end of September. Turkish Basketball Federation Chairman said the other day "We believe in Enes." Made me very happy."

"My laughter tweet "hahahaha" was not for the NT, not for the people of Turkey. It was for some names, who came to their status and power by "knowing" some higher ground people and could not help get jelly about my success and talk BS back then. I pray for Allah to forgive them anyway. I will try to repair the broken hearts of young basketball fans because of that."

Kanter has vowed to support the 2015 Turkish national team regardless of the ongoing disagreement.

I honestly can't comment on a situation I know nothing about, but in terms of basketball, it's an absolute shame that Kanter will not get to play for Turkey. I got the chance to watch all of Turkey's games during last year's World Championship, and they were a team desperately in need of a scorer. Nobody on the roster averaged over 10 points per game for their home club. Furthermore, the Turkish team was extremely solid defensively, using gritty play to achieve upset wins over more talented Lithuanian and Australian teams. Had they been able to add Kanter to that mix, Turkey would have had a serious shot at winning it all. Also, Turkey's defensive discipline could have had a positive effect on Kanter's game as he returned to the NBA for the next season.

Alas, we don't live in a perfect world. At the very least, Kanter will have very little risk of injury heading into next season's campaign, hopefully with the Thunder.