One of the many gems on the NBA Christmas Day slate of games is Raptors-Celtics, with a resilient and injury-plagued world champion hosting a Celtics team that currently has a hold on the second seed in the Eastern Conference. No matter who plays for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry will make it interesting and set the scene for the NBA’s post-holiday slate.
And while there’s some speculation about the ocular health of Marcus Smart, a cornerstone defensively for this year’s Celtics, the more complicated playing status of another Celtic appears to be cleared up. Monday brought news that Turkish forward Enes Kanter will play on Christmas Day, as he and the Celtics were given assurances that Kanter can travel to Canada to play in the game.
Kanter wrote an opinion piece in Toronto’s Globe & Mail on Monday expressing his thanks to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who apparently helped sort out the issue of Turkish threats against him that have become an international issue over the last few seasons.
I want to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement, U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the Celtics, the NBA and my managers for working diligently to make my Christmas game against the Raptors possible and ensuring my safety there. And, on Christmas night, I will play in my first game as a Celtic outside the U.S. when I take the court against the Raptors.
Kanter detailed the threats and issues he’s had since speaking out about the Turkish government and its president, who earlier this year visited Donald Trump’s White House.
Almost every week, I receive death threats. I’ve already survived a kidnapping attempt in Indonesia. I have no idea what awaits me every time I travel somewhere. So I’ve been forced to miss games, including one in London earlier this year, just because an autocrat 5,000 miles away wanted it to be so. And it has been an open question whether I will be able to go to Toronto to play against the Raptors on Christmas Day, as scheduled.
I wasn’t under any illusion that my activism was going to come without repercussion. But the disproportionate retaliation I received from the Turkish government for calling them out has also taken an enormous toll on my personal life, my family and everyone who has stood by me.
As ESPN’s Tim Bontemps explained on Monday, the NBA has had to worry about Kanter’s status concerning Raptors games before, including last postseason when a potential meeting with the Raptors in the NBA Finals could have occurred had Kanter, then with the Portland Trail Blazers, won the Western Conference. That didn’t come to pass, of course, but with Boston and Toronto in the same conference and potentially meeting in the postseason this year, it’s good this issue has been resolved.