'Thunder can go all the way to NBA Finals'
Kanter insists Westbrook-led Oklahoma will get only stronger next season
Few would have backed the Oklahoma City Thunder for NBA success this season, after their kingpin Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors in a shock move.
The mantle was passed on to his co-star Russell Westbrook, who guided the Thunder to the Western Conference first-round play-off series - losing 4-1 to the Houston Rockets - although the 28-year-old point guard also came under fire for padding his game statistics and playing a solo "Russketball" game.
But Thunder centre Enes Kanter came to the defence of Westbrook, who recorded 42 triple-doubles to surpass Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson's single-season mark, insisting that his teammate has more than successfully filled Durant's shoes.
The 24-year-old Kanter was in town for a basketball clinic with members of the Down Syndrome Association of Singapore (DSA) at their headquarters in Junction 8 yesterday morning.
Kanter's visit to Singapore is the fifth in a 16-country tour under the Enes Kanter Light Foundation, which aims to bring shelter, food and education to underprivileged youth.
Speaking to The New Paper after the event, the Turk said: "(After Durant left), Russell had to step up (to lead the team) and he did a really good job, both on the court and off it.
"He played really unbelievably (well), and had a monster season with 42 triple-doubles.
"If you look at Russell's (average) statistics, he was getting all these points (31.6 per game) but, at the same time, he was making everybody else better as well.
"That's one thing really special about him.
"He's always helping his teammates and, this season, he tried the best he could to do everything for us.
"He was passing the ball, he was assisting (10.4), he was getting rebounds (10.7), so for him it wasn't just about scoring the ball - it was about making everybody else better, too."
Kanter admitted that Durant's departure was painfully felt this season, but stressed that the team have made their peace with the move.
"The loss of Durant was a really big blow - he was one of the best players we had," said Kanter, who played 72 games for the Thunder this season and averaged 14.3 points per game .
"But, changing teams is a business - you can't really do anything about it.
"You just have to focus on your game, focus on your team and keep moving forward."
Thunder finished as the sixth seeds this regular season, while they were third seeds in the previous season when Durant was around. But Kanter feels that Oklahoma can get only stronger next season.
Said Kanter: "I feel like (Thunder) have a really bright future, our team are one of the youngest in the NBA (joined in 2008).
"All we have to do is to keep playing hard, playing smart and having fun."
"We had a pretty good season (this year). In the play-offs (against Houston), we played hard, but they played better."
"When things go wrong, we need to stay together.
"Next year, we will try to do the best we can - get into the play-offs, qualify for the Western Conference Finals and take it all the way to the NBA Finals."