Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter having more fun, success on the court

Published: Sunday, Jan. 5 2014 6:40 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter, right, of Turkey, puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Enes Kanter credits conversations he’s had with Utah Jazz coaches for helping him snap out of a funk.

The theme of those chats?

“Just have fun out there,” Kanter said.

Telling him to have fun wasn’t their only advice, of course. Coach Tyrone Corbin and crew have emphasized his need to be more focused, to not overthink things on the court, and to play his game.

The result of him doing those things has been, well, kinda fun for a young man who’d been struggling.

On Friday, the 6-foot-11 big man had his seventh double-double of the season and second in a week with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Jazz’s 110-99 loss to the Lakers. That came a night after he put up 11 points and six boards in a win over Milwaukee.

Kanter has now scored in double figures in three of four games and, like the Jazz, is headed in a positive direction.

“Definitely,” the third-year center said. “I feel comfortable compared to last month. I feel more comfortable. I got more confident.”

The encouraging part Friday at Staples Center was that Kanter and fellow big man Derrick Favors played well together side-by-side during a stretch in the fourth quarter. Corbin went away from that starting combo earlier this season after they struggled to rekindle the good chemistry they had in previous years.

“It’s fun. It’s fun because he’s a really good player,” Kanter said. “When I’m on the court with him, I know he’s got my back and he knows I got his back.”

Corbin said the team anticipated that it’d be able to go to Kanter on the block and “have him carry the load offensively a little bit for us” this season, and that’s starting to happen more often.

The 21-year-old is averaging career highs in scoring (11.0), rebounds (6.1) and minutes played (25.8), but he’s shooting a career-low 47 percent and has floundered at times in his backup role. In December, Kanter only averaged 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 41.7 percent shooting.

“I think he’s starting to relax more,” Corbin said. “We’re finding a position to put him in and a role to put him in, which is more fitting for him.”

According to Corbin, Kanter is drawing more double teams and making better passes to the weak side while teammates are reading and cutting better with him on the court.

“He’s reading situations more,” Corbin said, “so we’re able to give him the ball and go to him (in consecutive possessions) on the post.”

Corbin didn’t pick a side of the court Kanter needs to improve on the most when asked before Sunday’s practice.

“The biggest area is just getting better getting used to the moment, understanding the importance of the little things every night, and being focused all the time on the floor,” Corbin said.

“When you have success, build on it to have a huge game (and) not relax at certain times. He’s getting better. His focus is getting better, and as his focus gets better he’ll have more consistent results, more good results for us.”

Kanter believes that’s the case for the Jazz, who flirted with their first three-game winning streak of the season before falling in L.A. on Friday. Utah had Saturday off followed by two days of practice before Tuesday’s home game against Oklahoma City.

“We still need to work on some things,” Kanter said, “but I think we’re moving the right direction, especially on defense.”

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