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Utah Jazz trade Enes Kanter to OKC

SALT LAKE CITY — Enes Kanter got his wish.

A week after he made it known that he wanted to be traded from the Utah Jazz, the disgruntled big man was sent to Oklahoma City in a three-way deadline deal.

Kanter and sharpshooting forward Steve Novak were sent to the Thunder in a deal that came together right before the 1 p.m. MST trade deadline Thursday.

In exchange, the Jazz acquired Thunder bigs Kendrick Perkins and Grant Jerrett, an OKC future protected first-round pick, a 2017 second-rounder from Detroit, and the NBA rights to 7-foot-2 German center Tibor Pleiss.

Perkins' contract, however, will be bought out by the Jazz, and the 30-year-old will be free to sign with another team, per Deseret News sources.

"Trades like this are never easy," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said in a statement. "But we thank Enes and Steve for their contributions to the team and in the community and wish them well as they move forward in their careers."

That said, Lindsey was pleased that the Jazz were able to pick up multiple assets in the transaction with the Thunder and Pistons. Though the Jazz lost their No. 3 pick from 2011, Lindsey is encouraged by the additional financial flexibility they have going into this offseason and beyond.

"We’re always going to take the long view," Lindsey said. "The rebuild is significant and long and arduous, and we’re not going to run from that. We still have to operate and operate fundamentally correct."

Before the All-Star break, Kanter told the Deseret News he hoped to be traded by Thursday's deadline. The 22-year-old has long been frustrated with his playing time and role with the Jazz, and not playing in the fourth quarter of the 87-82 loss at Dallas last Wednesday was the final straw.

Lindsey said Kanter's expressed desire had "zero" impact on this move.

"I would be the biggest hypocrite in the building to criticize Enes for some emotion after the game," he said, counting it off as "human nature" of a young, competitive athlete.

"In some ways, I respect how much he wants to play," Lindsey said. "We get it. It had nothing to do with the decision. You’ve got to remove yourself from emotion like that."

Neither Kanter nor his agent, Max Ergul, responded to text messages on a wild Thursday, but the amicable player tweeted his appreciation.

"A huge thank you to the @utahjazz, my teammates, coaches and the amazing #JazzNation for the last four years," Kanter wrote. "You were all awesome!"

Kanter's teammates, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, both said they were surprised when news about the deal broke Thursday afternoon.

"Enes was a good guy. Steve was a good guy, too. I hate to see both of them go," said Favors, who was traded to the Jazz from the Nets during his rookie season. "… I was a bit surprised, but at the same time it’s a business. I've been through it."

Gobert stands to gain the most from Kanter's departure, but he said he'll miss the Turk's sense of humor in the locker room.

"I knew he wanted to be traded," Gobert said. "I’m happy for him."

Jazz coach Quin Snyder described Kanter and Novak as "just really good people."

Snyder said the team is "appreciative" of Kanter's contributions to the Jazz since being drafted high in the 2011 lottery. He gave a measured response when asked if Kanter had talked to him about being upset about his playing time and role.

"Enes has gotten better. He just has. It’s something I think our staff should feel good about. I think he knows that," Snyder said. "He’s gotten better because he’s worked hard, and he’s applied himself."

The Thunder anticipate signing Kanter to a long-term deal this July when the forward/center becomes a restricted free agent, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wojnarowski also reported that the Jazz and Kanter's representative "never seriously discussed a rookie extension" before last fall's deadline.

Perhaps one big reason?

The Jazz offered Kanter a four-year deal worth $32 million, while his camp sought compensation in the Gordon Hayward ballpark (four years, $63 million), per a league source.

Kanter's departure ends a 3½-year stint in Utah. The 6-foot-11 player was drafted third overall by the Jazz in 2011 after being ineligible to play at Kentucky his freshman season because of an NCAA violation.

Although he possesses a blend of offensive skills and nifty footwork, Kanter struggled to find a steady role with the Jazz in his first two seasons while Utah relied on talented bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

Kanter's camp, which has long sought a trade, continued to be frustrated with how then-Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin used him through last season.

This year, Kanter was averaging career-highs in points (13.8), rebounds (7.8) and minutes (27.1), and was lauded by his new coach for making defensive improvements.

However, Kanter continued to be upset about not playing enough.

The Jazz didn't make Kanter available to speak to media at Wednesday's practice, despite the NBA's player-access rules, and the organization remained positive in its remarks about him Thursday.

"We wish him well," Snyder said. "I’ve told him the same thing and hopefully he’s got a really bright future and career ahead of him."

Just not with Utah.

Lindsey admitted the emergence of their 7-foot-1 French center Rudy Gobert made the trade more feasible.

"Certainly Rudy’s exponential growth, we didn’t expect that, I didn’t expect that," Lindsey said. "You’ve got to react to it and acknowledge it a little bit."

Snyder tried juggling 96 frontcourt minutes between Favors, Kanter, Gobert and reserve power forward Trevor Booker, but there were multiple times, most recently in Dallas, when Kanter was frustrated for not playing in crunch time.

Now the Jazz, who don't have a true center behind Gobert, might scramble to fill those minutes, especially because Booker and Jeremy Evans are forwards. It's still possible Utah will bring in a D-League big man to add big-man depth.

"When you make a decision like this, there's always going to be times when you're looking and thinking about 'what-if?' Again, you still have to operate going forward," Lindsey said. "We feel like the players we have in the frontcourt are very significant, so we have to balance a few things."

The Jazz now have three assets playing in Spain: Pleiss, Brazilian point guard Raul Neto and Spanish center Ante Tomic.

"I could see none of them coming (in the future)," Lindsey said. "I could see all three of them coming."

Jerrett, a 6-10 power forward who played one year at Arizona (2012-13), has split time between the NBA and D-League in Oklahoma City this season.

Lindsey said it's too early to know what role Jerrett could play. It's not likely he will be available for Friday's game against Portland.

"We have to get him in practice, see what’s appropriate as far as what we want to do with him going forward," Lindsey said. "He’s 21. He’s 6-10. He’s mobile. He’s shooting 38 percent from three in the D-League. We like shooting bigs and the spacing that that provides. We’re going to work really hard to develop him to the best of our abilities."

Guard Reggie Jackson will be sent from OKC to Detroit as another part of the deal.

Lindsey took exception to the way a reporter phrased a question about why Kanter didn't work out in Utah in the long run.

"I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Look, he spent three and a half years here. He worked hard and did his best and did everything that we asked," Lindsey said. "Even though there were times where maybe he didn’t get the time that he wanted, we had some good players in front of him or alongside of him.

"Again, you have to make decisions," he added. "As you know, we can’t pay everybody $10 million-plus, so we had to look at some hard-cold facts."

Lindsey wouldn't comment on the buyout for Perkins, whom Yahoo! reported is likely headed to the Clippers, Cavaliers or Bulls after his Utah situation is finalized.

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