Make no mistake: Kanter is the Trail Blazers' backup center

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Playing time for Collins, Leonard will be scarce with Kanter in full backup role
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Make no mistake: Kanter is the Trail Blazers' backup center originally appeared on nbcsportsnorthwest.com

In his first game in Portland as a Trail Blazer, Enes Kanter played 18 minutes and 20 seconds Thursday night in the overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It wasn't his best game of the seven he's played for Portland and probably not his worst.

He made one of six shots from the floor, had six rebounds, four fouls, two blocked shots and three points.

He has never been known as a strong defender but is a big body who is a force on the boards and a player who can score through contact at the low post.

And he's moved into the playing rotation ahead of Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard. Coach Terry Stotts proclaimed Kanter, a veteran of 567 games in the NBA, the team's backup center from the day the team signed him and that's what he's going to be for the rest of this season.

"He could have gone other places," Stotts said Friday. "But he chose to come here. The same with Rodney Hood – he chose to come here. He had to agree to the deal. We feel good about getting two guys who had a choice about coming here."

Rumor had it that the Lakers had promised Kanter a starting job, which he refused to confirm or deny in a recent interview. So the Blazers considered it a coup to get him.

But there were times Thursday when his defense at the rim was in question. Stotts did not make any changes, though, leaving Collins on the bench and using Leonard for only 44 seconds.

Make no mistake, the Trail Blazers are committed to Kanter. A whole lot of people, including me, were wondering – with Nurkic ejected from the game earlier -- if Stotts would opt for Collins in a defensive role in the overtime of the OKC game. But he never did. He's giving Kanter every opportunity to show what he can and cannot do.

But I would make one suggestion and that would be to get the ball to him more frequently at the low post, where he can be effective. That would help balance out what could happen at the defensive end.

And as far as Collins and Leonard are concerned, the minutes will likely be infrequent, short and often matchup-based. But Kanter and Hood are free agents this summer and will probably not be on this roster next season.

I would expect the remainder of the season will be spent fitting the two newcomers into the system and assigning them roles that will allow them to flourish.

And then in the playoffs, expectations will be high that with a deep roster bolstered by the two trade-deadline additions, this team will be positioned for a deep run.