SALT LAKE CITY — It took a mighty good cause for Enes Kanter to give up a SpongeBob SquarePants toy he recently bought.
But, yes, he did it for the kids.
On Monday morning, the Jazz center, jokingly called “Kanter Klaus” by the team’s community relations department, put on a seasonal red-and-white cap and donated more than 200 stuffed animals, Jazz basketballs and toys to the Toys for Tots program.
“I’m the Turkey Santa today,” Kanter said with a big smile.
The Turkish citizen doesn’t personally celebrate Christmas as a Muslim, but he appreciates the Christian holiday and wanted to spread joy to children.
“It’s really important. I’ve been living in the United States for four or five years now. I understand the culture,” Kanter said. “Americans and kids really like Christmas, so I just wanted to give a gift and get them toys
“It’s a special day for them,” he added, “and it’s a really good feeling to put a smile on their face so they can have a good day.”
This is just one of many outreach events the Jazz are doing during the NBA Cares Season of Giving. On Friday, team employees made 40,000-plus meals for a Philippines relief effort.
On Monday, some U.S. Marines helped load the gifts after the team’s shootaround session for later distribution to local children in need at Fort Douglas.
“This is huge,” Sgt. William Cross said before helping Kanter pack the toys into a delivery truck. “For someone who has as busy of a schedule as he does to be able to take time out of his day, especially on a game day, to donate what he’s donating for us and for the kids and families, it’s amazing.”
The Jazz have also done hospital visits and served a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless and underprivileged Utahns, among other charity events.
INJURY UPDATE: Jazz big man Derrick Favors missed his second game in a row Monday because of a sore lower back. The Jazz power forward hoped he'd feel good enough to play after warm-ups, but he was scratched from the lineup.
Forward Marvin Williams also missed his fourth consecutive game because of inflammation in his right heel.
The Jazz lost 112-102 to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night with Favors and Williams out of action. That was the third loss in a row for Utah, which fell to 4-18. "It was tough. I wanted to be out there with my teammates," Favors said. "Hopefully, I could have made a difference out there, but I had to sit back there in the training room. It was tough." Favors played in Friday's blowout defeat to the Blazers, who hit 17 3-pointers that night. He didn't specify when asked at what point his back started bothering him. "Nothing too serious," he said. "Just kind of got tight, stiffened up a little bit. That's it." Favors said this back issue is not recurring from what happened this summer when he had problems while participating at the Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas.
BANNER NIGHT: The Jazz officially announced that Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan will be honored in a banner-raising ceremony at EnergySolutions Arena on Jan. 31, as was reported in the Deseret News over the weekend.
From 1988-2011, Sloan led the Jazz to two NBA Finals, seven division titles and 20 playoff appearances. He finished his career ranked No. 3 in NBA coaching wins (1,221-803).
Incidentally, Monday was the 25th anniversary of when Sloan took over for Frank Layden as head coach of the Jazz on Dec. 8, 1988.
SPONGEKANTER: Kanter grabbed the yellow SquarePants doll and joked that he was considering keeping that one.
“SpongeBob, it’s always my favorite,” he said.
And, yes, he “definitely” was a fan of the cartoon.
“I used to to watch it almost every day,” he said. “Not anymore, though.”