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Kentucky Basketball: Somebody Is Lying In The Enes Kanter Matter

Yesterday, New York Times sportswriter Pete Thamel produced another story in the ongoing saga of Enes Kanter's eligibility, once again apparently acting as a bullhorn for Kanter's former team, EuroLeage's Fenerbahçe Ülker. 

Fenerbahçe has been suspected by many in the UK sports community (including yours truly) of having an agenda at work in this matter, including a financial motivation.  Nedim Karakas, the general manager of the Turkish team, was back on the pages of the Grey Lady to reassure us that he is the good guy here, and everyone else has the agenda.

Quoth the Karakas in this most recent article:

"We have no intentions to ask for a release fee either from an N.B.A. franchise or any other pro club outside of Turkey," Karakas wrote in an e-mail on Monday. "Fenerbahce is not going to demand for any fee for releasing his rights and will respect FIBA’s International Rules."

It is my understanding Fenerbahçe is entitled to approximately $400,000 in transfer fees if Kanter moves to another team in the EuroLeague.  Karakas has just asked us to believe that he will waive that money, and if Fenerbahçe is willing to chuck $400 G's into the crapper, it certainly isn't incumbent upon me to dissuade them. 

My admittedly jaded conclusion, though, is that Karakas' wavier of the fees is an attempt to raise the credibility of his position with the NCAA, and is not serious. If the NCAA declares Kanter ineligible and he decided to defect to another EuroLeague club, I believe Karakas will change his mind and demand the money.  Due to the nature of my work, I am somewhat familiar with how business works in that part of the world. 

Karakas' claim of willingness to forfeit the transfer fee may be genuine, but in my opinion, it is not really believable.  If you were in charge of a business, no matter how wealthy, would you forfeit $400,000 for no reason other than to make you look more sincere?

But even if I am wrong, the concession of the transfer fees adds no credibility to Karakas' statements, at least in my opinion.  Later on in the Times' article, we have this:

Karakas disagreed with Mehmet Kanter’s contention that he "never once" discussed salary with Fenerbahce and kept "meticulous" records to ensure his son retained his amateur status.

"On the contrary to what he had said about his academic approach, he himself was the one to negotiate the terms of his son’s salary," Karakas said.

This is a reference to Dr. Mehmet Kanter's assertion to Mike DeCourcy in a Sporting News piece the other day:

Dr. Kanter said "never once" was a salary demanded from Fenerbahce or discussed. "I always try to protected Enes from anything might damage his future."

There is nothing really ambiguous about "never once."  Karakas is calling Dr. Kanter a liar, and in no uncertain terms.  The fact that he does not explicitly use the word does not change the fact that's what he's doing.

But Karakas is not done defending himself.  UK coach John Calipari, who said recently that Fenerbahçe had "four million reasons" (we do wonder what he meant by that) to make sure Kanter is not eligible, comes under direct fire from Karakas:

"Three or 4 million USD would not mean that much," Karakas wrote. "So before he talks to press, I would advise Coach Calipari to learn more about the people and/or institutions he will brag about."

Well, there you have it, folks. $4 million is a drop in the bucket to Karakas, although at the same time, he curiously gives credibility to Calipari's figure by not claiming it is inflated or made up.  So maybe Coach Cal knows something we don't here.  $4 million is an order of magnitude more than the transfer fee that we have been talking about, and notably, Karakas says nothing about waiving that kind of money, even while he poo-poo's it as chump change.

As a Kentucky fan in these days and times, I also have an obligation to evaluate the fairness of Pete Thamel's writing, as he has been accused by a number of people, including me, of being biased. 

Honestly, there is not that much wrong with this article.  He attempted to contact Calipari and Dr. Kanter for rebuttal of Karakas, both of whom declined comment.  That's how it is fairly done in the newspaper business.  The absence of the deadly "could not be reached for comment" speaks to the sincerity of Thamel's effort to get Dr. Kanter and Coach Cal's side.

I could quibble about an editorial phrase or two, but really, they are hardly worth mentioning.  The worst thing you could say (and this is admittedly pretty bad, if actually true) is that Karakas and Fenerbahçe are using what I perceive to be Thamel's dislike of Calipari to get him to act as a mouthpiece for the Fenerbahçe position.  But that is certainly debatable, since Fenerbahçe's position on this is unquestionably news and certainly newsworthy.

In the end, this article adds a little heat and virtually no light to the Kanter matter.  What we have had since the first Thamel article on the subject is little more than a "he said, she said" with both sides trying to influence the NCAA to see their point of view.  This latest piece adds nothing new to the body of evidence currently under review by the NCAA, and no credibility, or effective rebuttal to, either side.  Is it much ado about nothing?  Well, it is much ado, that's for sure.

The wait goes on.  Free Enes.